Mock car crash emphasizes consequences of unsafe driving
By Brittani Howell
The Herald-Times Herald-Times|
May 14, 2019 | 2:15 PM
Aidan Crowley was shaking as he prepared to stumble from a ruined car onto the Bloomington High School South lawn.
He knew the blood on his face, and on his friends' faces, was fake. And he knew that the car crash aftermath they were about to act out for their peers was just part of a performance.
But knowing how closely it resembled the real deal was intense.
"I never want to be in a car crash," Crowley said, standing with his fellow actors — all seniors — near the emergency response vehicles after the performance. "If it was that nerve-wracking as a performance ... "
The mock car crash held outside Bloomington South was meant to draw that reaction from its teenage audience of juniors and seniors. By showing the consequences of impaired or distracted driving, school officials hoped students would be more hesitant to get behind the wheel if they weren't in a state to drive.
While the scenario acted out on the lawn was fake, wrecks just like it happen all the time. In 2016, almost 30 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States came from crashes in which alcohol was involved, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dave Pruet, a security officer at South, told students that one out of every 10 U.S. teenagers drive while drunk on a regular basis, and that six teenagers lose their lives every day to drunken driving.
Pruet knows that better than most: He lost his wife and young son years ago when a drunken driver hit their vehicle head-on as they returned from a shopping trip, killing them instantly.
His wife was a South graduate herself. After she died, her class planted a memorial tree and put up a bench in her honor.
"It changed so many lives because of a poor decision that one man made, to get behind the wheel drunk and drive a 2,000-pound weapon down the road," Pruet told the crowd.
Bloomington Police Department Sgt. Pam Gladish, who was on hand for the presentation, reminded students that crashes don't just happen because of substance abuse.
"The same thing can happen in real life if you're texting," or are otherwise distracted from watching the road, she said.
BHS South has been putting on mock car crashes every other year since the early 2000s. Greg Marchant, a social worker at the school, said that the performances seem to be effective, based on feedback they've received.
It seemed particularly impactful for the six students who acted out the scenario.
In front of their peers, Crowley and his classmate Calvin Prenkert stumbled out of the cars, staring in horror at the spot where Addy Blackwell lay across the hood, thrown through the windshield in the collision. Prenkert, the actor portraying the drunken driver, sank to the ground sobbing, as Crowley called BPD and told Gladish that there had been an accident and yes, there had been alcohol involved.
The audience listened as Gladish reported the crash to dispatch, and watched as coordinated ambulances and firetrucks rolled up, sirens screaming. They craned their necks as an IU Health helicopter airlifted one "victim" — Afua Dakwa — to the hospital. And they watched as Prenkert, after failing a preliminary intoxication test, was placed in handcuffs and driven away in a police car.
After the demonstration, Prenkert said he and his fellow actors had been somewhat shocked by the scenario they were supposed to act out, but had decided it was a good thing to do, particularly as the students approached graduation and all the parties that would likely accompany it.
Caroline Conrad agreed. Her twin brother, Carson, was one of the two "fatalities" in the exercise.
"It was heavy," she confessed. But if it ultimately kept others from making unsafe decisions, "It was worth it."