By RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
On the eve of prom night, students at Portsmouth High School on Friday took a graphic and sobering look at the dangers of drunk driving.
The visual program has been presented to different schools by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) every year since 1992. Portsmouth School District Nurse Heather Harcha said this is the first time it has been shown at Portsmouth, and students from New Boston School also came to watch.
“Anytime they see something like this, it’s always a visual impact. They’re usually very attentive to what is going on. They try to relate to that, because (some of them) have loved ones that have been killed in car crashes,” said Trooper David Richendollar, from the Portsmouth Post of the OSHP in Lucasville.
Student actors from the Portsmouth Area Arts Council (PAAC) participated with an after-prom party performance on the stage of the Portsmouth High School cafetorium.
“I hope that the kids that see this today, and the kids participating walk away with the consequences of their bad decisions. To party and to drink and drive are one of the worst decisions you can make no matter what age you are,” said PAAC Director Rebecca Lovins.
In the play, students are drinking beer and laughing, until they decide to hit another prom party across town. One of the students decides it would be funny if she drove, because she is the most drunk. The scene was then moved outside, where a two-vehicle crash had been staged, and students lie dead in the street covered in broken glass and blood.
Portsmouth Fire Department arrived on the scene and used the Jaws of Life to extract one of the mock victims. The Highway Patrol also participated; arresting the student (Alison Thompson of Portsmouth West High School) who was driving drunk when she caused the crash. A medical helicopter also arrived and flew other mock crash victims from the scene.
“In the past they have signed prom promise pledges. I’m hoping this year, by seeing the visual aspect of it, it will make a lasting impression with them. This is a graphic scene, and I’m hoping this will stick with them,” Harcha said.
New Boston Prom Adviser Angie Walsh called it an eye-opening experience for students.
“We were very thankful they allowed us to come down, because of the small district we couldn’t have afforded to put something like that on for ourselves,” Walsh said.
For some students the scene is very difficult to watch. A few, unfortunately, stood pointing and laughing at the crash scene. Richendollar assured that even though they wear a smile in front of their friends, they are getting the message.
“A majority of them, I think, get it. When you inject students into it, especially their friends, they’re going to make fun of it because they think it’s a game. But in the back of their mind they know this is how reality is.”
Not smiling at all was John Clayton, who stood with the students outside Portsmouth High School on Friday and watched his daughter, 16-year old PHS student Annie Clayton, pulled from the crushed remains of the mock wreck. He said it was difficult to see his daughter like that, but he hopes it teaches her and other students a hard lesson about drinking.
“It’s a very negative, negative thing to drink. Her view on drinking is very negative, which we’re thrilled about, I guess,” Clayton said.
The Highway Patrol has already presented their program at Washington-Nile and Scioto County Career Technical Center this year. They will present another program at Minford and Northwest schools next week. Richendollar said that since beginning the program in 1992, there has been a drop in the number of local teenage drunk driving incidents.
Ryan Scott Ottney be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or email@example.com.