Mock accident shows consequences of drunken driving


Justin Brown

Justin Wilson, a Charleston High School senior performs a field sobriety test with an Eastern police officer during Wednesday’s mock DUI exercise at the High School.

Loren Dickson, Entertainment Reporter

As the school year comes to an end, Charleston High School students are preparing for prom on Saturday.

To remind the students and community to remain safe, the Charleston Fire Department hosted a mock drunken-driving accident Wednesday morning in the parking lot of Charleston High School.

Assisting the CFD were the Charleston Police Department, Coles County Sheriff’s Office, University Police Department, Illinois State Troopers, the Coles County Coroner’s Office, Adams Funeral Chapel and Sara Bush Lincoln’s Emergency Medical Services Department.

Capt. James Calvert of the Charleston Fire Department said this is the fifth time they have conducted the mock accident.

“We have been doing this for ten years, but we do it every two years,” Calvert said. “The reason for this is so the junior and senior class will see it once while they are in high school and not repeatedly… It is more impactful that way.”

The aftermath of the mock accident included students acting out different scenarios.

These included portraying critical patients taken to the hospital in an ambulance, one critical patient transported via helicopter, one walking wounded, one arrested for DUI and one that was pronounced dead on arrival.

As the students witnessed their fellow classmate being transported into a hearse via a body bag, the poem “Please God, I’m Only 17” could be heard over the loud speakers.

“Please God, I’m Only 17” is about a high school student killed in a car accident.

“Please don’t bury me; I have lots of living to do. I want to run and jump again. I want to laugh and sing. Please don’t put me in the ground. I promise if you give me one more chance, I’ll be the most careful driver in the whole world,” the poem recited.

Following the poem, students could hear their classmate’s fake obituary being read from a set of speakers.

“She actually filled out a biographical form from the funeral home and they wrote an official obituary,” Calvert said.

Lakeria Bell, a senior at Charleston High School, said the mock accident provoked a lot of emotion in her.

“All I could think was, ‘I don’t want to be that person, and I don’t want it to be any of my friends,’” Bell said.

Bell said she would never want to see any of her classmates in harm’s way and will help anyone who is in need of a ride Saturday and any other day.

The mock accident was also an emotional experience for Dakota Renfro, a senior at Charleston High School.

“Even though it was a mock accident, watching my friend get pulled out of the car and put into the ambulance was really hard because we’re such great friends,” Renfro said. “It was really hard seeing him in that situation … I couldn’t even look at him without crying. I’ve had a couple of friends die in a car accident, so seeing this today really got to me.”

Renfro said she has heard of fellow classmates who are planning to drink on Saturday night and hopes that they will ask for a sober ride home.

“I hope today’s demonstration will make people realize they shouldn’t drink and drive and that there are other options,” she said.

The “drunken driver” in the mock accident, senior Justin Wilson, said everything performed was very realistic.

“I think it will definitely change some people’s plans for Saturday night,” Wilson said. “Actually seeing the unconscious bodies of fellow peers will probably stick in everyone’s minds.”

Senior Nick Marsili discussed his emotions as he watched Wilson, his friend, being handcuffed.

“It was really intense … Seeing him get put in the back of the cop car just made me think, ‘his entire life would change,’” Marsili said. “I really hope this deterred students from making the decision to drink and drive or get in the car with others who are under the influence.”

Calvert said performing these mock accidents has had a severe impact on the students.

“We don’t have any statistics about whether or not the DUI rates of high school-aged students has decreased since we started this program ten years ago,” Calvert said. “However, although we don’t have the data, it definitely seems like there have been less instances over the past years.”

Calvert said the students have responded well to the mock accident.

“We’ve had students say ‘I never thought this is what it would look like’ or ‘This was very real,’ which makes it all worthwhile,” he said.

To conclude the demonstration, Calvert reminded students that every action has a consequence.

“These are your fellow classmates, your friends, your peers,” he said. “This very well could be any one of you on Saturday if you make the wrong decision.”

Loren Dickson can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]