GREENVILLE — In 2016, Darke County recorded seven vehicle fatalities.
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), in 2016, 305,964 traffic crashes occurred in Ohio, which resulted in more than 112,000 injuries and in 1,133 fatalities. In an effort to educate some Greenville High School (GHS) students about safe driving, GHS Spanish Teacher and SADD Club Adviser Lori Keller and the SADD Club scheduled a Mock Crash for students May 5. Due to inclement weather, the crash was omitted but some very powerful speakers reinforced the importance of making good decisions when getting in vehicles. Speakers included: Chief Brian Phillips, Greenville Township Rescue; Laura Seger, whose son Joey, a senior at Upper Valley Joint Vocational School (JVS) in Piqua, was killed in 2010 by an impaired driver; and CareFlight Outreach Manager Mandy Via.
“Every two years we put this on for the juniors, seniors and every student going to the prom,” Keller said. “It is a time when they might make some bad choices. We just want to encourage them to have a safe prom. Also, going into graduation season, students get out and want to party. We want them to be safe.”
Chief Phillips asked the students to look at the person next to them.
“There is a good chance that they may be dead tomorrow,” he said. “That is a very bold statement and I apologize for that, but I think we have to get that through our brains. When I first got into this career many years ago, I remember my paramedic instructor telling me, ‘there are some things we just can’t teach you’. I didn’t realize what he meant, until I went on my first accident.”
Phillips went on to share the details of one of his most unforgettable accident scenes.
“It is really hard to paint a picture,” he said. “When you are on these scenes, all senses are involved. You smell, see and feel certain things. After everything is said and done, we deal with the families. Nothing can prepare you for that. I want you guys to think before you get in that car. I remember being your age and thinking, ‘it is not going to happen to me’. I quickly learned that phrase is complete bull crap. I know a lot of the seniors in here, and I don’t want to show up to a scene, recognize one of you and have to tell your family that you aren’t going to be back.”
The next speaker Laura Seger lost her son, Joey, in a car crash caused by an impaired driver.
“You guys as a mom, I can’t tell you everything that went through my mind.” she said of the crash. “I wanted to throw up, scream and hit. How do you kiss your son goodnight and less than 14 hours later, he is gone? You have to understand, this is not just about prom, this is about everyday life. Remember everything you heard here today. Joey was killed on a Tuesday afternoon, it was a perfectly sunny day. There was no reason for it to happen. It was completely preventable. Instead of his senior year getting senior prom and graduation, I got to plan his funeral, write an obituary, pick out his casket, his songs, his clothes. His funeral was closed casket because of the damage. Glass and your face don’t go together.
“What message is so important that you have to take your eyes off the road – what message?” Seger asked. “Nothing. Put your phones away. You guys are dying over (Laugh Out Loud) LOL messages. If you guys are out doing things you shouldn’t be doing, don’t you dare get behind the wheel of that car. Don’t let your friends get behind the wheel. You take their keys, you call for a ride, you call your mom or dad. Do not drive.”
CareFlight Outreach Manager Mandy Via said, “This can be you, it can be any one of us. I want you guys to be safe and careful. You are not invincible, Joey was not invincible. Please, please be safe out there.”
GHS SADD member and senior Molly Hunt said she thought the parent speaker (Seger) really touched home for a lot of people.
“We’ve had crashes in our GHS family in recent years,” she said. “I have had family members and friends affected by drunk driving. I think having that personal story helps make it more realistic.”
GHS Principal Jeff Cassell said, “I know it’s somber, I know sometimes you think, ‘it is not going to happen to me’, just like you have heard several times today. I have been in a few accidents myself, most of my own fault, and you just have to realize I am lucky that I have survived those things. It can happen to you, believe me.”