Students from Long County High School got a hard dose of reality Tuesday as the Long County Sheriff’s Office put on its first Student Safety Awareness Day.
The event featured several demonstrations, including a roll-over simulator, drunk-driving-simulation goggles and a simulated head-on auto accident.
With the junior/senior prom scheduled for Saturday night and summer break just around the corner, Sheriff Craig Nobles said that he wanted to put the program together to help influence the students to make good decisions.
“At this age, the students think they’re invincible. We put this day together to get the message out that it is dangerous to drink and drive, but also to text and drive,” he said. “We want them to know that it only takes one bad decision, and their life can change in an instant.”
The simulated accident included four teens, with one acting badly injured and another “dead” at the scene. It also showed how first responders handle a wreck of this magnitude, from law-enforcement officers arriving to the coroner loading a body for transport. As part of the scenario, an actress playing a dead-teen’s mother came to the wreck scene hysterically crying after learning that her son had “died.” Georgia State Patrol troopers also arrested a “drunk driver” who caused the wreck.
As high-school students watched, firefighters demonstrated the difficulties of removing a victim from a mangled vehicle, and emergency-management personnel showed how they treat patients at a scene.
Two firefighters working the crash scene were high-school seniors Tyler Walker and Kaitlynn Walker, who are members of the Ludowici/Long County Volunteer Fire Department.
“Honestly, I never thought once about texting and driving, or driving under the influence. Experiencing that hands-on today and seeing the re-enactment like it was a real situation really opened my eyes,” student Vanessa Blake said. “It could change your life forever and for, what, 15 minutes of fun. It’s really not worth it.”
After the demonstration, students went into the gym to hear Adam Cochran tell his story. Cochran was involved in an accident in 2004 in Savannah in which three people were killed. He was guilty of vehicular homicide and DUI and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was paroled after serving almost eight years and will be on parole until 2019.
“My prison sentence is over, but my life sentence of feeling guilt never goes away,” Cochran said. “I’m down here of my own free will, trying to tell these kids not to make the same mistake that I made. It’s all about choices; we all have the capability of making sound choices, and I want them to know that.”