TYRONE - With proms and graduations just around the corner, seniors at one local school district got a firsthand lesson in what can happen when people make poor choices and get behind the wheel.
A mock DUI crash, complete with a mock sentencing of the driver, was staged Thursday morning at the Tyrone Area High School, a re-enactment organizers hope will drive home the tragic consequences of drinking and driving.
"The number one killer of teens in the 16 to 24 age group is motor vehicle crashes," said PennDOT District 9 spokesman Anthony Scalia.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Tyrone Area High School student Joe Steinbugl, 16, volunteered to be a rear seat passenger in a mock DUI crash Thursday
morning at the school. Neptune Fire Chief Tim “Skeet” Weston and Jessica McFarland of AMED “tend” to Steinbugl’s injuries.
Students watched as Tyrone firefighters from the Neptune and Blazing Arrow Hook and Ladder fire companies responded, along with AMED, to a mock wreck involving four teenagers. The senior class watched as firefighters cut the roof off the wrecked car to get to the injured students, who were taken away in an ambulance while the driver was arrested for suspicion of DUI.
Deputy Blair County Coroner Gil Barton was even on hand to deal with removing a girl who was "killed" in the accident, as state police accident reconstructionists worked to analyze the scene.
"We try to give them a real-life vehicle accident," said Hookies Chief Dave Wiser. "We want to show them what happens when you're not making the right decisions on the road."
After the wreck, students were given an abbreviated look at the aftermath, including the sentencing of the teenage driver that included an emotional statement from the dead passenger's mother.
While it was just role playing, Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller reminded the students that these kinds of scenes happen regularly in Blair County, something Blair County Victim/Witness Coordinator Sue Griep noted stays with the victims, the drivers and the community long after the court proceedings and jail sentences have ended.
"It's a lifelong journey after you've lost a loved one to crime," Griep said.
State Trooper Frank Gaus, based out of the Rockview station, helped get across the criminal aspect of a DUI wreck by putting students through field sobriety tests, with two of the students wearing goggles designed to simulate intoxication.
"We want them to understand that driving is a privilege, and they need to take it seriously because a vehicle can be considered a weapon and cause injury or death to themselves or other," Gaus said.
For the students, the message was clear.
"Definitely don't drink and drive," said Johnny Payne, 18, of Tyrone. "Make smart choices, and don't be an idiot."
Ryan Cox, 18, of Tyrone said it was a good reminder that actions have consequences.
"It gave me a new outlook on how serious one little mistake can be," Cox said.
"I just think it impacted a lot of the seniors," pointed out Jordyn Swogger, 18, of Tyrone. She said it was good to show drinking and driving has serious outcomes, as did Seth Umholtz, 18, also of Tyrone.
"Drinking and driving and doing things you're not supposed to do is a stupid thing to do," Umholtz said.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.