WALKER — Meagan Ashley’s body lay lifeless on the hood of a car Friday at Walker High School. The teen, who had just been involved in a “mock crash,” was “thrown” from the vehicle when the car she was riding in hit another car head on. Ashley, who was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the accident, was pronounced “dead” at the scene.
While Friday’s mock crash was staged to help make teenagers aware of the consequences of their decisions, the scenario is all too real.
“I work more wrecks in this age range,” said Trooper First Class Russell G. Graham II, public information officer with the State Police.
“They think they’re invincible. When they see it in their face, they tend to realize that it can happen to them.”
During the event “Consequences of Impact” — a mock fatality crash involving impaired driving — students acted out a fatal crash scene scenario in front of their peers.
The event allowed the students to see first-hand how drinking and driving affects everyone involved. Parents and teachers also played a role in the deadly scenario.
The mock crash emphasized the dangers and consequences of impaired driving and distracted driving, the importance of seat-belt use, and the emotional suffering families endure when a fatal crash occurs in reality. The crash was an extension of the “Sudden Impact” program, which is put on in Baton Rouge by Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and State Police.
“We want to increase the awareness of drinking and driving and texting and driving,” said Laura Jenkins, of the Walker Police Department.
“We want them to see the consequences,” Jenkins said.
As Walker High School students watched the events of the crash unfold before them, they whispered to each other, some in disbelief that an accident like this could actually happen to them.
The crash brought home to students the reality of what can happen when an already impaired driver, who was returning home from a graduation party, texted his parents to let them know that he would be home shortly. As the driver, played by Walker High School student Michael Wood, texted his parents, he hit another vehicle, head-on. In the other vehicle were the driver’s friends, who were also returning home from the party. The passenger in the first car “died,” and a passenger in the vehicle that was hit was “critically injured.”
“It was really kind of surreal,” Wood told students following the crash. “You’re riding in the car and having fun with your friends and in an instant, it’s gone. Is the party worth it? Is the text message worth it to lose someone’s life?”
“No parent should ever have to go through this,” said Crystal Johnson, who played Walker High School student Adrian Sanders’ mom. Sanders was “critically injured” in the mock crash and sustained a severe head injury.
“Take a stand,” said Ashley’s father, Thomas Ashley Jr., who broke down in tears upon learning that his daughter had been “killed” in the mock crash. “Don’t get in that car if someone is intoxicated.”
Following the mock crash, Wood was asked by a state trooper to complete a field sobriety test, which he failed, and was then “booked” on DWI. He was taken to “jail,” where he was later charged with negligent homicide and negligent injury. His mother, Bonita Wood, broke down in front of the students as she learned the news.
“How could you do this Michael,” she asked. “What about your future.”
Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre said he hoped that Friday’s events would bring an awareness to students about the consequences of their decisions.
“I want them to make a conscious decision to be careful, not only not to drink and drive but not to text and drive,” St. Pierre said.
“I want them to learn a sense of safety,” St. Pierre continued. “This can happen if you’re not safe on the road.”
“With kids, it’s easy to get distracted,” he said. “The more kids you have in a vehicle, the greater the probability of an accident.”
“They need to be aware that the decisions they make resonate with them and stay with them forever,” St. Pierre said.
I want them to learn “to always wear their seat belt, don’t drink and drive, and don’t get into a car with someone who was drinking, and put the cellphone down,” St. Pierre said.
“Stand up and be a leader and make the right decisions,” Walker Police Chief Hunter Grimes told students.
“This is a lesson you learn in high school but that you can carry with you for the rest of your life,” Graham said.
This year’s mock crash was the second one held at Walker High School but the first held in conjunction with the State Police.
Another mock crash will be held at St. Amant High School soon.
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