Emergency responders work to extricate the victims of a simulated crash Friday at Rye Cove High School. Photos provided by Tammy and Carli Cassell.
RYE COVE — With prom fast approaching, local law enforcement, emergency responders and health-care providers simulated a fatal car accident Friday afternoon for students at Rye Cove High School to remind them of the dangers of impaired and distracted driving.
The two-hour-long driving safety program was organized for the school's sophomore, junior and senior classes ahead of the May 3 prom by the Scott County Sheriff's Office and the Rye Cove Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
Sheriff's deputies were joined on campus by the Duffield Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Wellmont One Air Transport and Wellmont Trauma Services representatives to give students a realistic depiction of what can go wrong when someone is intoxicated, or not paying attention, when they are behind the wheel.
Frontier Health Prevention Services and the Gate City Army National Guard also participated in the event, which is associated with the FCCLA's Families Acting for Community Traffic Safety (FACTS) initiative.
Although the FACTS program has been in place several years, RCHS resource officer Jason Cox said the exercise was the first time the school has hosted a fatal crash simulation.
"This is the third year we've done this particular program, but this is the first year we've actually gone to the extreme of staging a crash," Cox said. "It's a massive coordinated effort, it takes a lot of work to put this on. But all the folks that participated were very receptive and onboard with us, because this is a very important cause."
Cox said the crash re-enactment was designed to be as realistic as possible, with Wellmont One Air Transport even timed to arrive after the "crash" had occurred. The two victims were also extricated from their vehicle, which was donated by Duffield's Sunbright Auto, with the Jaws of Life.
One of the crash victims, who were portrayed by two recent high school graduates, was pronounced dead at the scene. The second victim suffered severe injuries and was treated by emergency responders at the crash site before being airlifted to the nearest trauma unit.
The wreck was a result of the driver being distracted while texting, Cox said.
In addition to the crash simulation, students were also given the opportunity to perform various activities inside the school's gym while wearing "drunk goggles" provided by the National Guard.
Rye Cove family and consumer science teacher and FCCLA sponsor Tammy Cassell said the simulation was an effective way to make an impression on students.
"I think it was a little more eye-opening because it was actual people that they knew or knew of," Cassell said. "It's a lot more effective than just having people speak to them. They need to see it on their level to make an impact."
Rye Cove sophomore Jacob Dean admitted that the demonstration struck a chord with students.
"It's eye-opening to look and see the real thing, pretty much, happen right in front of you," Dean said. "It's a lot better to actually get to see it demonstrated than to just have someone lecture you about it."
Fellow sophomore Keila Vaughn agreed with her classmate.
"I think it was an eye-opener," Vaughn said. "It was for me, I know that."
Both Dean and Vaughn are involved with the FACTS initiative and recently won the gold award in the state FCCLA competition for their presentation on distracted driving entitled "Aim High ... Don't Fly."
"We're trying to show teens what can happen to them if they drive distracted," Vaughn said. "Texting is just as bad as drinking and driving. It has the same outcome."
The pair will now travel to San Antonio, Texas, in July to compete on the national level.
Cox commended the students for their effort to educate their peers on safe driving habits.
"I was very impressed and pleased with their work," Cox said. "These kids have a passion for traffic safety and that's awesome. That's the endgame, if we can influence one kid to make the right decision when they drive, we're doing our job."