Early lessons help save lives

Published 9:18 am Friday, April 3, 2015

With all the distractions on the road facing young drivers these days, I think it’s more than commendable that some individuals and groups are taking it upon themselves to try and get through to high school drivers about the actual dangers behind the wheel.

UNITE bills itself as the nation’s top health and wellness organizations. The group’s Arrive Alive Tour visits elementary to college campuses around the nation in an effort to teach students about what could happen should students choose to make the wrong decision while behind the wheel.

The Arrive Alive Tour paid a visit to Franklinton’s Bowling Green School on Monday. Using a driving simulator, students had the option of texting while driving or drinking while driving to learn how they reacted to scenarios on the road keyed in by UNITE associates.

Most of the driving tests I witnessed resulted in crashes or worse. There were cases of students running over pedestrians in the street resulting in vehicular homicides. That is hardly the way one wants to begin his or her driving careers in real life.

After they took their turn on the simulator, students were visibly shaken and vowed not to text and drive or drink and drive when they are behind the wheel.

That is the message UNITE wanted to send. That students should think first about the consequences of their actions before they actually get behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound machine that can kill or maim in an instant if the driver becomes momentarily distracted or simply isn’t paying attention.

I would label UNITE’s effort at Bowling Green and other schools commendable and laudable

However, the best effort I’ve seen of adults trying to drive home the consequences of drunk driving and texting and driving to youth was two years ago when I was a reporter in McComb, Miss. Under the direction of case manager, Charli Hensley, the Pike County Juvenile Drug Court presented a two-day program with the help of local and regional first responders.

The Every 15 Minutes Program was so realistic that it was actually scary and struck a nerve into whoever participated or witnessed scenes. It is part of a national program. During the two-day program, personnel with the local police, funeral homes and air evacuation teams all participated and took their roles seriously.

At the start of the program, the Grim Reaper pulled students out of class every 15 minutes, the real-life time frame officials said it took for youth to die in traffic accidents. For the remainder of that day, students were considered among the living dead and could not communicate with anyone. After students were pulled from class, sheriff’s department officers announced that a child had been killed in a crash.

Students portrayed deceased accident victims and drivers, who as part of the lesson were led away in handcuffs, jailed and put on trial. Law enforcement and other participating agencies handled scenes as they would during an actual crash.

I believe the most heart-wrenching scene was when a father of an “accident victim” addressed a guilty driver in court and expressed his feelings of having to see their dead child on a gurney. The father’s voice actually broke describing what he witnessed. It was raw emotion.

If something like the Every 15 Minutes Program doesn’t reach kids, then nothing will. When contacted, neither Bogalusa City Schools nor Washington Parish Schools had anything similar planned in the immediate future. BHS Principal Eric Greely said he was definitely interested in the program.

That’s a step in the right direction.

Randy Hammons is a staff writer for the Daily News. He can be reached by calling 985-732-2565 or email at randy.hammons@thebogalusadailynews.com.