B y Jaime Thomas
The Hartford and Fort Ann junior and senior classes watched as emergency responders used hydraulic equipment to extricate their classmates from a car crash. One of them had to be loaded onto a stretcher; the other was carried away in a zipped up body bag.
It was all part of the districts’ prom crash simulation, a mock accident designed to teach kids an important lesson — don’t drink and drive.
Hartford Superintendent Andrew Cook said the schools have been doing this annually for a number of years, and this year was Hartford’s turn to host.
“We feel it’s important each year because students need to realize the importance of split decisions when they’re behind the wheel of a motor vehicle,” Cook said, mentioning the parties that come with prom and graduation. “Hopefully they’ll think twice while behind the wheel of a car.”
As students watched, members of the Washington County Sheriffs, local firefighters, EMS and a coroner arrived and responded to the accident as they would in real life. After the last victim was driven away in a hearse, the students went inside the Hartford firehouse to hear Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Sullivan give a talk about what had happened and why it was so important.
“We take part to get it out there to kids to get them aware of the dangers of drinking and driving,” Sergeant Michael Distasio said. He said Sullivan’s message is always especially powerful, because he had a brother killed in a drunken driving accident, to which he responded as a fireman.
“It really hits home when he gives that story; we usually have a few that are crying,” Distasio said. He thinks such a sobering presentation and speech gives a more lifelike impact to students, especially around prom time.
“We put it out there to hopefully prevent it from happening in the future,” he said.
Cook said in recent years, officials have started to strongly incorporate distracted driving into the presentation as well, which is becoming a prevalent problem. He cited a statistic someone gave, which said that it takes an average of four seconds to send a text — that would be equivalent to driving the length of a football field with closed eyes.
The school has received nothing but positive feedback from students about the simulation, and Cook sees it as a good reminder for both the teenagers and their teachers.
“It’s a great reminder for adults, and it’s an eye-opening experience for students,” he said.