By Dawn Hatfield
UNION CITY, Ohio — On Friday, April 14, exactly one week before prom, Mississinawa Valley SADD organization teamed up with the Miami Valley Drive Smart Program and local police, fire, rescue, coroner and funeral home to host a multiple-victim mock crash at Mississinawa Valley High School, bringing awareness to the real-life consequences of impaired driving.
Narrated step-by-step by a Careflight nurse, the students witnessed, in real-time, how first-responders handle a head-on collision between two vehicles traveling at 60 miles per hour, a combined closing speed of 120.
The nurse explained that in this simulation, the impaired driver of a silver SUV had crossed the center line, crashing into the oncoming vehicle without giving them any time to avoid the fatal impact. The unimpaired driver of the black SUV was thrown into the steering wheel without a seat-belt, the front-seat passenger busted through the windshield and landed partially on the hood of the vehicle, and a backseat passenger also sustained injuries. The impaired driver was not substantially injured but would step into a nightmare of consequences regardless.
Time and again, the nurse emphasized CHOICES. Every single student each and every day makes a series of decisions. The wrong choice can lead to life-changing circumstances from which there could be no recovery.
The simulation began with the unveiling of the staged collision and a (pre-planned) call to 911 by witnesses. In the few minutes it took first-responders to arrive, the nurse shared some sobering statistics, explaining, “The number one cause of death in your age group is, unfortunately, motor vehicle collisions. Over half of collisions in your age group involve drunk or impaired driving. I know prom is coming up; the choices and temptations just get harder in life, and there can be lasting effects of that.” He reminded students, “Seat-belts are the number one thing that can save a life in a car crash, along with helmets on a motorcycle.”
Although only a few minutes in length, the lag time between the placing of the call and the helpless victims receiving treatment felt like an eternity with the understanding that every second passing ticks away into the “Golden Hour,” the initial 60-minutes of care following critical injury that statistically increases survivability.
Within minutes, a fire engine, ambulances, and police cars converged on the scene. The first to arrive on the scene evaluated victims for level of injury and would begin treating the most critically-wounded.
Unfortunately, the simulated impact, which would have lasted less than a quarter of a second in real life, had left mock victims trapped inside the black SUV, requiring an extrication with a hydraulic rescue tool known as the Jaws of Life. The passenger who was thrown onto the hood of the vehicle no longer appeared to have a pulse. The Careflight helicopter could be heard approaching and circling overhead to find a safe landing area, and the coroner would soon arrive for the victim whose injuries were ultimately fatal.
In the end, even with a team of highly-trained first-responders on site, one mock victim was pronounced dead at the scene; another was transported by Careflight due to critical injuries; the third victim was taken by ambulance; and the impaired driver failed a sobriety field test and was handcuffed and escorted to jail by police.
The Careflight nurse reported approximately 1,600 deaths occur annually—basically the equivalent of two average-sized high schools’ worth of students dead every single year due to motor vehicle accidents that could have been avoided by making safer choices. “Think about coming to school tomorrow and not having anybody here,” he challenged.
Following the mock crash, Laura Seger, who lost her son, Joey, a senior at Piqua High School, to an impaired driver 12 years ago, shared her story. She began, “What you saw is what could happen if you make a bad choice. For my family, this is all too real.”
“My Joey was just like every one of you students sitting here today. He loved going to school and hanging with his friends; he loved making plans for the weekends; he really loved giving his teachers a hard time—he was just like you guys. In less than 14 hours from the last time I saw Joey, he was gone,” Seger said.
“A lady… decided to go to Meijer on a Tuesday morning and buy a six-pack of compressed air. She sat in the parking lot of Meijer and huffed an entire can. She was under the influence of an inhalant; she was high. My guys [Joey and his dad] were four miles from home; they were almost home when she went off the right-hand side of the roadway on State Route 718 and came back up onto the road and went left of center—she never stopped. My son, Joey, was the driver; he got down in the ditch to try to miss her, but it didn’t do any good. She hit them at 78-plus mile per hour, head on. The impact was so violent, that it tore the cab and bed off the frame of the truck and stood it in an ‘L,’” Seger concluded.
Joey died at the scene, and his father, the passenger in their truck at the time of the accident, has been unable to return to work ever since.
Seger implored students to make wise choices, to call someone, ANYONE—parents, teachers, emergency personnel—if they are faced with the decision to drive impaired. “Someone will come get you. Don’t make a bad decision even worse by getting behind the wheel,” students were reminded again and again.
Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.