Bartlett Yancey Students See The Dangers of Distracted Driving
The demonstration in the Bartlett Yancey student parking lot could not have been more real. In a crashed car was Matthew Smallwood who played the victim. “Just open the door,” said the voice over the loud speaker, “so I can get out.” Unfortunately, the victim that Smallwood played was deceased. “My dad is going to kill me when he sees this car.”
Next on the scene was a passerby who was visibly upset and called 911. Soon after, a sheriff’s car arrived and then the multiple fire departments and EMS. Perhaps the most heart wrenching part was when the victim’s mother, screamed and cried when she saw her son.
The well-orchestrated event, put together by VIP for a VIP, (Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person) was an effort to show the students that watched from the bleachers the dangers of distracted driving. “It is as real as it gets,” said Caswell’s Fire Marshall, Vernon Massengill.
VIP for a VIP is a volunteer organization that travels to high schools in hopes of reaching the students so they will not text, speed or drink and drive. Bartlett Yancey High School Nurse, Amy Adkins, coordinated the effort in hopes that the students would learn the dangers of distracted driving. Sophomores, juniors and seniors from Bartlett Yancey spent the afternoon watching the re-enactment.
The morning hours were spent listening to the first responders who work crash scenes. “We are doing this program because North Carolina is the third deadliest state for teen fatalities,” said Bobby Bulla, retired Captain with the High Point Fire Department. “This isn’t a wear your seatbelt program but we are going to talk about that. It takes 7/10th of a second to put your seatbelt on. If we can keep youu inside the passenger side of the vehicle we can keep you alive.”
“This isn’t a texting and driving program but were going to talk about that too,” he continued. “Texting while driving is 23 times more dangerous then talking on your cell phone.” Bulla said that he often hears students say they can text without looking at their phones. “But you can’t receive one,” he told the students.
“We are going to talk about drinking and driving. In North Carolina the law is 21 years old,” he said. “That’s to purchase, possess or consume alcohol. I don’t believe anyone sitting in this auditorium is 21 years old.”
Bulla added that all of the speakers for the event were going to explain what they do when they arrive at a crash scene. “And what you do with that information is your choice.”
Yanceyville Fire Chief, Vernon Massengill, stepped to the front of the stage. “These pagers go off for the fire departments. We answer many calls,” said Massengill. “When we hear that there’s a wreck call, we wonder is this a young person? Do we know this person? How serious? How involved is the wreck? As we arrive on the scene and we see the mangled car. We see the young person inside. We know the young person inside. Our hearts stop and feel for that young person. We feel for their parents.”
Massengill added that even if they are upset because they know the person, their work cannot stop. “We are there to help. We are there to fix. Sometimes we can’t help. Sometimes we can’t fix.”
“This afternoon I want each of you to put yourself in the position of not only the patient, not only the person who wrecked but put yourself in the position of the parent. Put yourself in the position of the friend. Your consequences, your actions, bring hurt to all those.”
Massengill said he hoped the students would leave the program knowing that their actions have consequences. “Please remember those consequences involve a lot of other people and don’t let our page be your next wreck.”
Ronnie Hill from the Caswell County Emergency Medical Services explained that once the fire department extracates the victim, the paramedics go to work. “Once we get you onto a long spine board, secure you, move you to the ambulance, we then begin to assess you by that we are going to get rid of all your clothing, theres no modesty there, we start treatment which includes starting IVs.”
“I had an incidence where I had two young children that were actually run over while they were on their bicycle by someone who was distracted,” recounted Hill who said that one child only lived two weeks before succumbing to its injuries. “The other one ended up having a leg that was amputated. She was a sports star. If you don’t think that your responsibility once you get behind that wheel is anything but get from A to B and talk on the phone, you should look at the person beside of you.”
“Today I want to talk to you about what happens when you hit a tree at 55 miles per hour,” said Caswell Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Shuler “Occasionally we may need a reminder of the need to drive in sobriety, vigilance, defensiveness and consciousness. This is what happens when a car driving 55 miles an hour hits a tree and the driver is not wearing a seatbelt. As the car meets the tree the front bumper and the grill collapse.”
Shuler described how the metal crumples and glass breaks. “The heavy frame members begin to break the momentum of the two and a half ton car but the driver continues forward at 55 mph. His momentum is twenty times the normal force of gravity.” Without sparing words, Shuler spoke on the injuries the driver, without a seatbelt, would sustain as they died. “The driver is dead. It has taken seven tenths of a second. That is less time than it takes to say buckle up.”
“You’ve heard what happens to a vehicle when it hits a tree.” North Carolina Wildlife Officer Justin Mathis said that injuries on a lake are no less serious. “Let’s put the same situation on the water with a boat hitting another boat. There’s a lot of similarities- there’s a lot of differences.”
Mathis said that the victims will still be thrown around and be injured by jagged metal. There’s props that are rotating when there’s speed involved. On water, when you don’t have a life jacket on and you’re unconscious, how are you going to stay afloat? That’s the problem.”
It only takes a few seconds to put a life jacket on, he said. “Ninety percent of all boating accidents where there are fatalities- the fatalities did not have a life jacket on. It’s simple math. Alcohol and drugs, two other bad situations we don’t want to mess with, but you compile those with no life jackets and there’s only one outcome. You are not going to survive.”
In case of a fatality, North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Chris Knox explained that a member of the North Carolina Highway Patrol has the unfortunate job of investigating the crash and notifying the family. “We know that we have to now put our effort into investigating this collision and finding out what took place, but that’s really the easy part,” he said. “We have got the technology to plug right into your car now and see how fast you were going, breaking, steering and whether your seat belt was on or off. The technology is there to investigate and to do it very easily.”
“That’s the easy part. We investigate and then when it’s over the hard part comes. You’re not going home. You will never go home again. I’ve got to go home for you that night. I’ve got to show up at your house and tell the people that love you the most that their lives have now been changed.”
“Jacob Turner was my oldest child,” a tearful Tonya Pegg told the quiet audience. “Just 12 hours before the accident Jacob’s biggest problem was not being to wear his earrings on the baseball field. He had gotten his ears pierced for Christmas and he was too early to take them out.” Jacob died when his vehicle hit a patch of ice. He was 15.
“His biggest decision was what to do for his upcoming birthday,” she continued. “When he left for his parents and grandparents house that night it was a usual goodbye, I love you and a kiss to the forehead. The following morning his dad received a call and I could tell by the sound of his voice that it was not good news but never did I think that it was anything about the boys. I will never forget how hopeless and helpless that six foot three man, 215 pounds, was when he fell to his knees.”
Pegg said that instead of a graduation ceremony, there was his name on the back of the program and an empty chair. “Jacob’s birthday used to be cake and presents and now we can only wish him a happy birthday in heaven. Vacations and family and friends gatherings are never complete. Other than an ornament on the tree, flowers for his grave there’s nothing else I can give him now.”
Pegg pleaded with the students to not get behind the wheel if they have been drinking, taking drugs or lacking sleep. “Don’t go faster than your driving experience can handle. Don’t text and drive and don’t ride with the people that are doing these things. Think ahead and have a safety plan. Please don’t leave your family or someone else’s with an empty hole that no one and nothing can fill.”
“40% of teen deaths occur in motor vehicle crashes,” said Bulla. “In 68% of teen crashes the teen driver is found at fault. In 2013, 53% of teen drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing their seatbelts. There is room to survive if we can keep you inside. Just buckle up.”
“Remember these numbers this afternoon when you leave,” he warned. “With one teen passenger in your car you are 39% more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident. If you have two teen passengers you are 86% more likely to be killed. Three or more teen passengers you are 182% more likely. Be a good passenger your life depends on it. Texting is 23% more dangerous than making a cell phone call. One in three teens say they have texted while driving. 48% say they have been in a car with a driver who was texting.”
“In my 30 plus years in the fire service, and all these speakers behind me will tell you the same thing,” he continued, “every time we roll up on one of these accidents, nobody thought that morning that it was going to be them. Everyone had plans for later that day and for tomorrow.”
“This isn’t a video game, this is reality and things happen in your life in a split second. You can’t push that reset, you can’t push start and start over.”