By Joseph Pratt
Northwest High School held a mock car crash Thursday morning for nearly 400 students to show them the importance of vehicular safety and driving sober. Students with fake blood and prosthetics lied in totaled cars and on the ground, surrounded by car fragments and empty beer cans.
It was a countywide endeavor to arrange the disaster, with the Ohio State Patrol to respond, a hearse to carry a body, an emergency helicopter, an emergency response team and more to treat the situation like a legitimate car accident scene.
Northwest High School Vice Principal Jason Burton said that he believes it is very important for the school to give the students a demonstration of what could happen if they don’t practice proper vehicular safety, especially Northwest, since the school has a record of vehicular accidents and student deaths.
“We do this every other year as a way to meet with our kids and remind them the dangers and privileges of driving,” Burton said. “We’ve had our share of fatalities out here; we’ve lost a lot of students over the years. I’ve been out in this district for 19 years and I’ve lost 16 kids from four-wheeler and car accidents. We try to do this stuff to remind out kids of the dangers of distracted driving.”
Burton said that the Northwest School District reaches around 190 square miles and some students drive a lot to and from school. Since much of the student body is dependent on driving, the school likes to remind them frequently to practice cautionary driving.
“We just want our students to be safe and smart when they drive. These mock incidents are very important. I got here in 1995 and we’ve been having them since before I even got here,” Burton said. “It is a huge ordeal and a community event. We have the combination help of the local fire departments from Union, Otway, Rarden and all of these different departments that work together. They go through the entire process that would happen in a normal accident and the kids get to witness the real experience.”
Of the emergency responders at the mock disaster, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) was one of them. The OSHP is very active in spreading awareness for student driving safety and visits many of the local schools in preparation to the upcoming proms and graduations.
“We assign troopers to the high schools to educate the kids on the things we see repetitively happening in our community,” Sergeant John Howard said. “I think statistics teach us that we take in just a portion of what we hear and a larger portion of what we see and hear. We can’t put them on the scene of a fatal crash, but providing a staged one gives us the opportunity to giving them as real of an experience as we can possibly get.”
Howard said that the greatest number of car incidents occurs between drivers who are between 15.5 and 23 years old, so he tries to show students the importance of cautious driving in high school, because it is most prevalent to them at the time and also gives him a chance to reach out to the most people possible.
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.