WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It is high school prom season, and that means the risk of an increase in teen drinking and driving. In West Haven Wednesday morning, high school students got a firsthand look at the terrible consequences of bad decisions.
First responders see terrible drunk driving crashes all the time. High school students do not. That is the idea behind the West haven Fire Department staging a crash at West Haven High.
“Especially around prom, graduation, any of the events that are going on that they are getting caught up in,” Fire Chief James O’Brien said.
Those celebrations are also when teen drunk driving crashes go up. Police found a mock head-on crash was caused by a drunk driver, played by one of the students. He is okay in the end, but ends up under arrest, his whole future, thrown away.
Meanwhile, one of the passengers has to be rescued from what’s left of the car and taken away on a stretcher.
“I was a girl trapped in the back seat, got a terrible leg injury, and she was stuck, bleeding out of her head,” Emily Whelan, the West Haven High School senior said.
While the blood is fake, she hopes crashes like this can have a real impact on her classmates.
“I think it’s important to get the word out because, obviously, drunk driving is not okay at all,” Whelan said. “It shouldn’t be anything of the sort, so I think it’s important to show what can happen and what it’s like.”
While Whelan’s character ends up in an ambulance, the final act is much worse. One victim did not make it. A funeral home is called. That’s what this exercise is really meant to avoid.
“The biggest thing with this mock crash is that one kid remembers one part and it makes a difference to make a choice in his life,” Jim Lafo, the West Haven High health and physical education teacher who coordinated the mock crash.
Several high schools hold mock crashes like this every year, so why keep doing this? Because every year more than 2,000 American teens die in car crashes, and more than a quarter million teens end up in the hospital.