WALKER — Cade Marsh was draped atop a vehicle, motionless and seemingly unable to respond, playing the victim in a mock high-speed collision.
When Leilah Alkadi, portraying the driver who caused the fatal crash, called out his name, it became painfully clear the 17-year-old had “died” after being thrown from the vehicle.
Walker High School students acted out the fatal crash scenario in front of their peers Wednesday, emphasizing the dangers of drinking and driving, the importance of wearing seat belts and the emotional suffering families endure when their loved ones are killed in car accidents.
“These kids are the ones who are about to start driving or who have just gotten their license,” said Jared Sandifer, public information officer with State Police Troop A. “They don’t understand the consequences of drinking and driving, texting and driving, or (not) wearing seat belts.”
Sandifer said that by having students act out the mock crash — caused as a result of drinking and texting while driving — the students can better understand the realities of car accidents.
For Marsh, the mock collision was surreal.
“I felt a really deep, sad depression,” he said. Even though the accident was staged, he said he “still felt like one of my closest friends had died.”
Marsh, who like other students admitted to riding in a car with someone who was either intoxicated or texting and driving, said his perspectives have changed.
“I can see firsthand the effects,” he said. “Before (the mock crash), I didn’t think it could happen to me, but now I know it can happen to anyone.”
Sandifer said he has known many students who have watched similar mock crashes survive in later accidents because of the lessons — such as wearing a seatbelt — they learned in the program.
Last month, troopers statewide were called to 26 fatalities from car accidents. Of those, 12 of the victims weren’t wearing a seat belt, Sandifer said.
The mock crash also aims to promote open and trusting relationships between parents and teens, he said. Parents of the students also played parts in the scenario.
Alkadi’s grandmother, Rose Chaney, was visibly shaken when she was notified her granddaughter had been “arrested” for vehicular homicide and negligent injury.
“I teared up,” Chaney said following the mock crash.
“These kids make these ‘I’m invincible’ decisions but the effects are real. We all have deaths in our families but it’s different when it’s unexpected and avoidable.”
Trooper Sgt. Johnny Brown said the scene played out at Walker High is a familiar one.
Brown said he no longer keeps count of the times he has arrested drivers for vehicular homicide.
“Even doing this, it felt real,” he said. “It’s not a simulation. The emotions (when something like this happens) are real.”
Numerous state and local agencies partnered with State Police for the event, including Our Lady of the Lake Hospital Trauma Center, Walker Police Department, Acadian Ambulance, Trading Post Towing and the Livingston Parish Coroner’s Office.
The program, which has been held at several schools in Troop A’s nine-parish jurisdiction, is an effort to reduce the number of underage DWIs, serious injury crashes and fatal crashes.
The program, called “Consequences of Impact,” is a reinforcement activity promoted through the Sudden Impact Program offered by State Police and Our Lady of the Lake Hospital Trauma Center.
The Sudden Impact Program is an eight-hour program for high school sophomores dedicated to the prevention of injuries and fatalities related to driving under the influence and lack of seat belt usage.
During the program, students interact with medical staff, and troopers emphasize the reality of injury and fatal crashes and the lifelong consequences victims and families confront every day.
The students are then taken to the Trauma ICU and Emergency Department where they go bedside with a trauma patient so they can witness the consequences of making poor decisions.
The Sudden Impact Program has received several awards and is listed in Louisiana’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan.
The program is conducted every week at OLOL and reinforcement activities are scheduled throughout the school year.