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Mock crash gives sobering lesson to W.Va. teens

May 04, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson High School administrators decided to go beyond the typical anti-drunken driving campaign Thursday, recreating their own drunken driving crash on the football field.

After a stern message from a state police trooper, volunteer rescue crews lifted tarps from two cars which were situated to simulate a head-on crash.

The dramatization started with rescue crews and Trooper Richard Shockey rushing to the two cars to assess the condition of the patients.

As the dramatization continued, the driver of one of the cars, who was later charged with driving under the influence, got out of his automobile and started interfering with Shockey and rescue crews.

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The trooper eventually handcuffed the man and put him in the cruiser. A woman in the car was pronounced dead.

A black hearse waited in the back of the field.

Ambulances and fire trucks, with their sirens and lights flashing, drove onto the field to pick up the injured.

Volunteer fire department crews, dressed in full gear, used power tools to cut the roof off one of the wrecked cars to gain access to two "injured" people. The "injured" man and woman were carried out of the car and onto stretchers.

Some the estimated 1,600 students who sat in the bleachers to watch seemed unimpressed.

High school students say they understand that it is no longer cool to drink and drive. So they drink and stay where they are, students said.

When students go to parties, "you crash there," said one senior, who described Thursday morning's dramatization as "kind of boring, useless."

"I really don't think this is needed," said senior Kenny Washington.

Junior Tracey Longerbeam said there is a lot of drinking among Jefferson High students. Most of the drinking occurs during weekend parties at students' homes when their parents are away, Longerbeam said.

"That's about all they do is party," Longerbeam said.

School officials said it is important to teach drunken driving lessons.

"These kids need to see this and a lot more. These kids are vulnerable. They don't think it will happen to them," said Lynne Gober, assistant principal.

Unlike adult drunken driving offenders, police can charge drivers under 21 with a drunken driving offense if they can smell a "whiff" of alcohol on the driver, Shockey told students.While adults must have at least .10 percent blood alcohol content in their system to to charged with drunk driving, drivers under 18 can have as little as .02 percent in their system to be charged, Shockey said.

Driving with measurable alcohol content is a misdemeanor that can carry a fine of $25 to $100.

The Shepherdstown Fire Department decided to hold the skit to help protect students from drunken driving accidents, said Michael M. Athey, fire prevention officer for the department.

The fire department and the school wanted to have the dramatization before graduation and the school's prom, which is May 13.

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