By Naomi Hatch
Don’t Text & Wreck was the theme for a mock car crash and program presented April 25 at Snowflake High School by White Mountain Fire and Life Safety, and Cellular One.
The Snowflake Fire Department, Taylor Fire Department and Taylor-Snowflake Emergency Services responded to a scene that unfolded when a student who was texting and distracted from driving struck another vehicle with five students in it, causing one death and injuries to eight or nine other students. One student was air evacuated by helicopter, several students were taken by ambulance and Silver Creek Mortuary picked up the student who died.
An assembly followed the mock car crash, with Molly Flake, president of Students Against Substance Abuse (SASA), introducing Miss Navajo County 2013 Shannon Willis.
Willis’ platform is Alcohol Awareness and Prevention, and she gave an emotional talk that began with her saying she heard comments from students, such as, “This is dumb” and “Why are we here.” Her reply? “To me this is something very real.”
Willis noted that alcohol is the number one drug because it is legal, available and easy to get, whether you’re of legal age or not.
She said that alcohol abuse is the third leading cause of death in the nation with 85,000 deaths related to alcohol and teens consume 25 percent of all alcohol consumed.
“There is help,” she said, through the Navajo County Drug Project. She encouraged students to go on her Facebook page or the drug project’s website for more information.
She told an emotional story about her 37-year-old aunt who died last year because of alcohol, leaving behind two children.
“When you wake up in the morning and you feel pressured, I want you to think of Shelly and her kids and her family,” said Willis.
Fire Marshal Kelly Wood of the Pinetop Fire Department and Fire Marshal Kirk Webb of the Lakeside Fire Department spoke of “a broken heart” caused by the death of a family member or close friend.
They noted that in 2011 there were 5.5 million crashes resulting in 1.5 million injuries or disfigurements, and 6,000 deaths.
“Texting and driving is the most dangerous,” said Webb as they discussed distractions, including visual distractions, where you look away from the road, manual distractions, where you take your hand off the steering wheel, and mental distractions, where you’re thinking about something other than driving. They said that using a cell phone and especially texting result in all three of these distractions.
Their PowerPoint presentation included a football field so students could see the yards a vehicle travels. It takes approximately 1.5 seconds to see something, take your foot off the gas and put it on the break. At 45 mph you have travelled 37 yards, and it will take 45 to 50 more yards before you can stop, travelling now approximately 87 yards. It takes five to six seconds to text.
“You think you’re invincible? It’s never going to happen to you?” asked Wood as he showed pictures of an accident in Show Low involving two students who were not hurt.
They also presented a short movie of a mock accident involving students who were texting.
Vicky Solomon of the Navajo County Tobacco and Chronic Disease Program shared her personal story of a car crash that occurred when she was 14, saying she still had a hard time talking about it.
A group of eight Overgaard teens were on their way to a Snowflake High School activity. The teen driver was distracted and crashed, ejecting them from the vehicle. Solomon was declared dead at the scene, but EMT’s worked hard to resuscitate her. She spent two weeks in the ICU and still suffers problems from the accident, such as memory loss, and is legally blind in one eye.
Solomon said her heart broke 28 years ago in July. “I feel the most pain for the driver,” she said, noting that he made a mistake by being distracted. Two of the students died and one was paralyzed. He couldn’t handle it and turned to drugs, but Solomon said he is now doing OK.
“When you get in a vehicle, it could kill somebody. I hope you guys will take this to heart and make wise decisions,” Solomon concluded.
Clint Peck, R.N., of Summit Healthcare said he works with all EMS men and women on the mountain. “EMT’s are trained for thousands of hours to save lives,” he said, then showed a picture of a crash caused by a young mother from the White Mountains who was texting while driving. Her vehicle hit another car head on, killing the two people in that vehicle. Emergency workers rushed her to the emergency room, where they did everything they knew to save her.
It didn’t matter how much training, how many drugs or what kind of equipment they had, they couldn’t save her life.
Peck noted that there are several students in the auditorium who may not make it to graduation or may not make it to be parents, and he encouraged them to not be distracted when they drive.
Tammy Borrego, an ER nurse, explained a program through Cellular One in which the company will make a donation for each student who signs a pledge not to text and drive, up to a total of $5,000.
She noted that students will be given a survey, noting that last year’s survey revealed that 30 percent of SHS students don’t use seatbelts, the lowest percentage in the survey.
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By Naomi Hatch