PUNXSUTAWNEY ‚ÄĒ It was a beautiful sunny morning at Punxsutawney Area High School the day before the senior prom, and all was well, except for the rear parking lot, where two heavily-damaged vehicles could be seen as the result of the annual mock drunk driving crash.
PAHS‚Äô SADD Club, Punxsutawney Borough Police, Punxsutawney Fire Department and Jefferson County EMS once again presented the pretend fatal traffic accident in which, as the story goes, two students lose their lives in a drunken-driving crash.
The pretend fatal accident has been an annual event the day before each senior prom for the better part of 30 years, said Tpr. Jamie LeVier, Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police community services officer.
After the portrayal ‚ÄĒ that again saw students injured, arrested and killed in the story ‚ÄĒ¬†LeVier said emergency responders are tired of having to deal with accidents involving teenagers and alcohol.
‚ÄúWe absolutely hate rolling onto a scene like this, where people have lost their lives in a senseless way, because people made the wrong decision just because they wanted to have a little more fun,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been very fortunate that we‚Äôve not experienced any student crashes in the recent years, whether they are alcohol related or not,‚ÄĚ LeVier said. ‚ÄúWe want to do whatever it takes to get these young people to understand how easy it is to slip up, which could ultimately cost somebody their life.‚ÄĚ
Punxsutawney Borough Police Chief Tom Fedigan said even though the mock crash is not real, it‚Äôs very realistic and does have an impact on the students who view it.
‚ÄúOur goal is, if we can have an effect on even one person in getting the message out, then we‚Äôre doing our job,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre hopeful that a number of students will ‚Äėget it.‚Äô We‚Äôre always hopeful we can touch a few lives here, and besides, the fact is, the underage drinking and DUI are both illegal.‚ÄĚ
Fedigan said if an underage person is involved in a DUI-related accident that results in someone‚Äôs death, he or she could face homicide charges or involuntary manslaughter and some serious jail time.
Senior Devon Vallies, who organized the mock crash ‚ÄĒ also known as the Prom Promise ‚ÄĒ as his senior project, said the annual program does have an impact on the students in regards to the consequences of drinking and driving.
‚ÄúAs a member of SADD, I had been a part of the mock crash before and helped with the planning last year, so this year, I thought it would be a great senior project,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúIt looked very realistic,‚ÄĚ Vallies added. ‚ÄúI can just imagine how a real accident would look. I hope everyone makes good choices over the prom weekend, so they won‚Äôt have to experience what it would be like to be involved in a DUI-related accident.‚ÄĚ
Angela Cesario, who co-advised the mock crash with SADD advisor Sarah Pack, said the event has been held as far back as 1982, when she was a PAHS student.
‚ÄúI think it does have an impact on the students, at least it gets them to think about their actions and the consequences it has on yourself and others,‚ÄĚ she said.
‚ÄúEven though this is a drill, it is very realistic because first responders would leave their jobs or homes day or night to respond to an accident like this,‚ÄĚ Cesario said.
SADD thanks all responders and other participating groups or agencies that took part.