Liberty County High School seniors, juniors and their dates will get glossed and glittered Saturday for the prom rite of passage, but they’ll also have in mind a fresh lesson about safety.
About 190 students Thursday participated in the school’s Prom Promise event, which emphasized driving safety.
“It’s a very important message that it sends to the kids, not only with prom time but with graduation coming up and summer vacation — you know, every decision you make has far-reaching consequences, and you want to make good choices,” LCHS Principal Paula Scott said. “Be a buddy to somebody; call them out if they’re making a poor choice and help keep everyone safe with everyone looking out for one another.”
The school has had the event about nine or 10 times but did not have it last year.
School resource officer Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Vernecia Mells coordinated this year’s event, which also included help from fellow sheriff’s deputies.
“We want the students to have as much fun as possible, but at the same time we want them to be safe,” Mells said. “Our goal is that at the end of this, they’ll walk away with awareness about the dangers of drinking and texting while driving.”
Adam Cochrane, a Bradwell Institute graduate, brought the message home when he spoke about his experience being charged with vehicular homicide after a wreck on the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah that killed a family of three. State Farm insurance agent Melissa Carter Ray put the school in touch with the speaker.
“He’s hoping that him giving his testimony would help save another young person from going through what he went through,” Mells added.
“Lots of times, you watch these videos on the Internet, or you hear things on the news, and it’s disassociated from you — it’s not somebody you can relate to,” Scott said about the speaker. “I think it really brought home to them that it could happen to someone right here in our community … when he was talking, they were paying attention.”
After, students ventured outside to drive golf carts, weaving in and out of traffic cones, in the school’s parking lot. Then they put on “drunk goggles” that simulate inebriation and were asked to do it again.
Several cones went down, and at one point some students got a scare as one of the carts careened toward them before the young driver slammed on the brakes.
Scott said that for some of the students, the experience was their first time behind the wheel.
Hinesville Fire Department, Liberty Regional Medical Center EMS, Air Evac Lifeteam, Georgia State Patrol and Liberty County Coroner Reggie Pierce also participated in bringing the lesson to life.
After their own driving experiences, the students moved to a mock accident scene where first responders worked with the Jaws of Life to get three people out of two vehicles. The cars were provided by Coastal Auto Parts and Recycling in Ludowici, Mells said.
One mock victim, a Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was pulled out of the scene by Air Evac responders.
Students Kaelynn Fitzgerald and Donnie Pulliam, dressed in prom garb, were pulled from the other vehicle. The responders treated the situation as if there was one fatality and one victim transported to the hospital.
“When you don’t make wise decisions, this is the end result,” Mells said, gesturing toward the wreck scene.