Mock accident raises awareness of drunk driving
Laughs quickly turned to stunned looks of shock Wednesday morning when Truckee High School students witnessed two all-too-realistic, simulated car accidents on Donner Pass Road.
About 800 students watched as emergency personnel dragged the bodies of their classmates, drenched in faux blood, out of the smashed vehicles and into ambulances, Care Flight helicopters ” and body bags.
“(The students) were attentive,” Vice Principal Grant Steunenberg said. “I saw students who were visibly shaken.”
For their part, the student witnesses said the grisly spectacle was effective.
“I don’t know what to say, it was so real,” said junior Jen Hill as she headed back to class. “It was weird seeing my friends (in the accident.)”
“It was so intense,” said senior Blandine Garez. “It makes us realize how important it is not to drink and drive.”
The Truckee Police Department, Truckee Fire Protection District and Care Flight helped stage the accident and rescue operation for Driven, an organization started by Truckee seniors Cole Froelich, Jessica Bohner, Kevin Barchas, Jordan Raber and Julie Madden to raise awareness of drunk-driving deaths. The exercise was sponsored by local businesses and organizations.
“We wanted to show there’s a visual to go along with it. You get to see how graphic it is,” Froelich said.
“It was done very well,” Vice President Steunenberg said. “It really gave students an idea as to what a real accident looks like and what takes place when a drunk-driving accident occurs.”
The students organized the event this week to make students think twice before drinking and driving on prom night Saturday, Froelich said.
“We felt like when we went to parties we were seeing too much of that,” Froelich said. “We … felt we had a grip on who had issues (with drinking and driving.)”
During afternoon classes, a student dressed as the Grim Reaper, accompanied by a police officer, visited classrooms and selected 32 students, whom they pronounced dead.
The students placed their own tombstones on the school’s front lawn, and stayed overnight in the auditorium for a team-building retreat and seminar on alcohol awareness. Students took part in exercises that included writing letters to their families as if they had been killed by a drunk driver.
The organizers chose students who had active roles in the school, Froelich said.
“We chose students whose absence would be noticed if they were gone,” he said.
“This is harder than you think,” Truckee Police Officer Bryan Berry said as he entered a classroom to tell the students they had lost another classmate.
During a speech the next morning at a memorial service for the student “victims,” Officer Berry explained why making the classroom announcements was so difficult.
He told the students how his brother was killed by a drunk driver and how painful it was to tell their parents. Afterward, Berry was embraced by Judy Peckler, a mother who lost her husband and two children in a 1997 alcohol-related accident on Highway 267. Because the exercise had the potential to be disturbing, students later were offered grief counseling.
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Friends of the Truckee Library gave a presentation at Tuesday’s Truckee Town Council meeting, providing an update on work to ensure a new library while asking for further support for the project.