Drunken driving on display

Mock car crash highlights reality of drinking and driving for graduating seniors
By Nicholas Johnson | Jun 14, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Kamiak senior Cullen McEachern calls 911 while participating in a mock car crash Friday, June 9, at Kamiak High School. The annual event held prior to prom aims to raise awareness among students of the consequences of driving drunk.

Hundreds of Kamiak seniors bore witness last week to a tragedy all too common among young adults: a fatal car crash caused by drunken driving.

The traumatic scene that played out in a parking lot on the school’s campus may not have been real, but it was hardly an exaggeration.

“What you just saw is real for too many people,” Mukilteo Fire paramedic Steve Potts told students during an assembly following the school’s annual mock car crash Friday, June 9.

“We [first responders] know in the back of our minds that this could be one of our family members. That’s tough for us. We’re here today to make sure you understand the impacts of these decisions.”

In 2014, for example, drunk drivers age 21-34 accounted for nearly 60 percent of fatal crashes nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Of the 35,092 fatal car crashes in Washington state in 2015, a third were caused by impaired driving, Stacey McShane, manager of the county’s Target Zero Task Force, told students.

When McShane asked students if they know someone who has been involved in a drunken driving crash, roughly a third raised their hands.

“It’s eye opening for people to realize how often it really does happen,” she said, noting that the number and regularity of drunken driving fatalities in the state is comparable to a commercial airplane falling out of the sky every week or two.

“Even if one kid makes the right decision, the ripple effect of that could be huge in preventing something terrible from happening,” she said.

As seniors graduate, celebration is in order. McShane, who spent 23 years as a 911 dispatcher, said the summer months are the most dangerous for teen drivers. Traffic crashes, regardless of cause, are the top killer of people ages 16-21, she said.

“We’re reaching that critical time where our kids are becoming more independent,” she said. “Any facts we can arm them with to make the right decisions is worth doing. I don’t want to watch another young person get buried.”

Drunk driving hit Kamiak hard in June 1998 when recent graduate Evan Bentz crashed the car he’d received as a graduation present along Chennault Beach Road, killing himself and a former Kamiak student and injuring several others.

That incident led to the school’s annual mock car crash event, held each year prior to the prom.

This year, senior class officers organized the production, enlisting eight student actors as well as volunteers from Mukilteo Police and Fire. Cars were donated by Wally’s Towing in Lynnwood, makeup was provided by Don Warner of Monsters, Moulage and Mayhem, and Kamiak Theatre Director Bryan Sullivan coached the actors.

The end result was both hard to watch and impossible to ignore. Students who had come cheery and chatting walked away stunned and speechless. If all the facts fall on deaf ears, Mukilteo Crime Prevention Officer Myron Travis said he hopes the stark reality of that mock crash makes students think twice.

“If you are about to get in a car with someone who has been drinking, give us a call, call 911 and we’ll come pick you up,” Travis told an attentive audience. “We’re not trying to charge you; we’re trying to keep you safe.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Jun 14, 2017 14:32

Great work by all involved - even at 35, the pictures of strong acting about what DOES happen after a car crash get my attention.

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