Monday, April 23, 2012

TOP STORY >> Students re-enact drunk driving

Leader staff writer

Death made a dramatic entry upon the lives of area students Thursday.

The Every 15 Minutes Program designed to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving seems to have at least accomplished that goal with student actors involved in a simulation of what could happen after a poor decision.

“It was nerve-racking. A lot of things were going through my mind. It was a life experience. Something could have happened to me. I could have been med-flighted for real. Then I wouldn’t be able to see my parents,” said North Pulaski High School senior Alea Glassco.
She and her classmates were the actors in a film where a group of friends on their way to prom are involved in a two-vehicle crash because one of the boys partook of alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

Glassco played the character that was airlifted from the scene and taken to a hospital. A MedFlight helicopter was used for the movie and for the live demonstration held in front of the students at NPHS.

Her mother, Angel Glassco, said, “It’s given her a closeup of what not to do at prom, instead of me just telling her.”

Several Jacksonville police officers, EMTs, the fire department, the coroner’s office, parents, other volunteers and the NPHS drama department helped bring the demonstration and film to life.

Senior Austin Rodgers, one of the passengers, had the task of expressing his grief by yelling and pushing the mock drunk driver at the scene of the accident.
Rodgers said he hyperventilated on the set.

He said, “I think that is exactly how I would have reacted if it had really happened. I told the EMT that I couldn’t feel my face or my hands for real. We were telling her different things and she said, “oh, not part of your exercise.” And I said, ‘yes, for real, help me.”’

Senior Jordan Sereal played the character who died in the crash. In the film, she is the one person who doesn’t drink before leaving a restaurant and heading to the prom. She also chastises the driver for drinking.

Sereal was required to remain still for more than an hour in front of a car face down on the pavement, in the position a person would be in if they went headfirst through the windshield.

She said, “It was so hot. I was burning. Bugs everywhere. But I thought it went really well. “
Senior Abby Russell, another actor, said before the performance, “Sometimes, as teenagers, we don’t realize the repercussions of our actions. We just do what makes us happy. I think it (the demonstration and film) will have a huge impact because it’s not just actors on a screen. It’s people we know and love.”

The demonstration included the mock drunk driver, played by junior Nick McCracken, getting arrested after failing a sobriety test at the scene of the crash. The film showed him in a courtroom being told that he could receive three years in prison for manslaughter. The movie ends with a police officer escorting him to a jail cell.

NPHS drama teacher Jen-nifer Salazar said McCracken told her the roller-coaster-like restraints inside the police car were horrible and frightening.

Every 15 Minutes is a national program that was started by in 1995 by a California patrol unit, said school resource officer Jennifer Thrasher. She said the title is based on the 1995 statistic that someone dies in an alcohol-related crash every 15 minutes.

A student was removed from class at NPHS every 15 minutes, and the student’s obituary was read to the class.

Those “dead walking” students had their faces painted black and white. They didn’t speak for the rest of the day.

One of the “walking dead,” senior Portia Mullen, said as her makeup was being applied, “Death is not something you can undo. A lot of people think they’re indestructible. They shouldn’t.”

Danny Dutcher, a volunteer for the police department, played the grim reaper who took the “walking dead” students from their classes.

He said he feels close to this issue because a family member was pulled over for driving while intoxicated last year.

Senior Adam Lewis was the grim reaper who returned the “walking dead” students to class. He said, “It really makes the reality of it more tangible if they can actually see the consequences.”

An assembly with several speakers was held on Friday at Jacksonville High School to show the film to NPHS and JHS juniors and seniors.

Thrasher told the students at the assembly that the statistic the program was named for has changed from one death in every 15 minutes to one death in every 48 minutes for 2009. She said it is predicted that figure will be one death in every 60 minutes soon.

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes said, “I know you don’t think about the cost of this thing, but we’re speaking of over $20,000 for a 30-minute production for you all. Next week is prom. That is the time we really get concerned about drunk drivers. You’re going to be faced with a lot of challenges. The worst thing I had to do in my 37-year career as a police officer was knocking on someone’s door and telling them their teenager had just died in an accident because they were under the influence.”

Fire Capt. Dewan Walls said, “We’re selfish at times and think our poor decisions just affect us, but they don’t. We hate seeing you on an incident.”

Carolyn Whitley, a registered nurse at North Metro who spent 36 years working in the emergency room, explained that once a person is pronounced dead after a crash, like the one that was simulated, no one enters the room your body is in and no one sees you until the funeral.

Hayse Miller of Family Services Agency described how a drunk driver pinned him and broke both his legs while he was trying to have his car jumped. He said he thought he was cut in half and the leg would have been cut off, if not for the brace he wears. Miller suffers from polio.

The person who was helping Miller give Miller’s car a jump caught the driver. The driver had attempted to leave the scene but was stumbling around.

“He wasn’t concerned about anyone but himself,” Miller told the students. “It’s your life, and your life has an impact on others.”

Olivia Wilson of Arkansas Children’s Hospital said, “If you don’t make it home from prom, you parents will remember it as when you passed away, not as prom.”

Parent Christy Darrington had to write her son’s obituary because he was one of the “walking dead.”

She said, “You can choose not to drink and drive. You can choose not to put your parents through that agony (of losing a child).”

Parent Stacy Conrad said she got into a car with a drunk driver when she was 17. They ended up hitting a tree and she woke up in intensive care three days later with a broken back. She’s had four back surgeries since then.

Conrad said, “I wake up every day with pain and every night before I go to bed there is pain.” She told the students not to make the same decision she did.

Jacksonville High School also participated in the program Thursday.