With prom on their horizons (today) and with after-prom parties also an interest, Thursday, students at Tucumcari High School had something else to think about. Because the DWI program in Tucumcari staged, with the help of city emergency personnel, a mock-fatal crash to instill a sense of sober reality into the minds of the teenagers who would be going to prom two days later.
Just south of the high school, the Tucumcari Police and Fire departments set up a crash scene where two cars had supposedly collided killing two high-school students. The scene had one student acting as a drunk driver and others acting as injured drivers or passengers.
The teens were made-up with makeup to simulate bloody injuries including head and chest wounds. When the bulk of the students from the high school arrived at the “crash site” they watched from behind police emergency tape. The staged scene that took them through the accident from the arrival of the police to the removal of the “dead” body of one of the accident victims.
According to one of the heads of the activity, Isabel Gurule of the DWI program, the whole idea was to “drive home the dangers of drinking and driving.” “Every 15 minutes somebody is killed by a drunk driver,” said Gurule of the reasons for the exercise. “And now that graduation and prom are here, we want to impress upon them the dangers of doing this sort of thing.”
According to most of the students watching from behind the yellow crime-scene tape just north of the accident, the whole staged event was indeed impressive. “I ain’t never going to drink and drive,” said Tucumcari high school sophomore John Callison. His sentiments were echoed by senior Joey Blas who was also in attendance. “It kind of sucks to think it could have been our class mates,” Blas about the simulated accident.
Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry said ever since the idea of staging a crash and involving his firefighters came up, he has been in favor of it because he feels it drives home the message to the teenagers that see it. He also said that it is good because it gives more practice to emergency personnel of the city.
Gurule said the simulated fatal crash was just part of the push to make the area high school students aware of the dangers. She said there was a number of other activities going on throughout the day to drive home the dangers of drinking and driving. Periodically through the day obituaries of victims of drinking and driving were read over the public address system of the school, New Mexico State Police Officers showed videos of fatal crashes, a mock morgue was set up at the Holiday Inn, students did “ride-alongs” with different police officers and they used fatal-vision glasses while attempting to drive remote controlled cars through a specially set up course.