Wabash students get lesson in safe choices

Wabash High School student Gage Ballard gets out of the car to check out the damage following the "accident." Photo by Joseph Slacian. 

By Joseph Slacian

Just days before their 2018 prom, students at Wabash High School received a lesson of how making bad choices can have deadly consequences.

Thanks to the efforts of a number of local agencies and businesses, the students viewed an Operation Safe Prom program on Thursday, May 10. A mock crash between two vehicles was staged in the parking lot of the Honeywell Pool.

Prior to the performance, WHS Principal Kyle Wieland and Wabash County Coroner Suzie Lewis spoke to the students.
“We have some really excited events coming up,” Wieland said. “We have prom, followed by graduation. It’s a great time to celebrate, but it also provides itself with some really tough decisions from time to time.

“One of the things as a school, we want to make sure you’re thinking about, ‘What is that safe choice for me?’ and also, ‘What is that safe choice for my friends and family?’ Sometimes, if you really are a true friend, you have to have those conversations if your friend is making a choice that is harmful to yourself or others.”

He said the program isn’t just about graduation, but rather about everyday choices that could lead to some very tragic events.

“We want to help steer away from those,” Wieland said.

Lewis reminded students that the No.1 cause of death among teenagers is alcohol-related accidents.

“A teenager dies every 22 seconds in the United States due to car accidents,” she said, citing 2013 statistics. “Drunk driving accidents are the number one killer of adolescents.”

Every accident caused by drinking and driving could be prevented, she stressed.

“It’s safe choices,” she said. “Every year about 22,000 teenagers are killed due to a motor vehicle accident, and another 4,000 others are injured.”

But, she reminded the students, alcohol is not the only thing that can cause vehicular accidents among teens.

Other factors, she noted, are interacting with other people, using a cell phone, singing and dancing, grooming and changing the radio station also contribute to vehicular deaths.

WHS student Vali Reed set the scenario for her classmates: A group of students attended Wabash’s prom but, rather than going to post-prom activities, opted instead to go to a private party where alcohol was served.

The demonstration picks up after a teen, which insisted she was capable of driving in spite of having several adult beverages, caused an accident. A person from the other car was lying atop the hood of one car, bloodied. Other victims remained in the car, some stuck, others unconscious.

Rescue personnel were called, resulting in Wabash Police, the Wabash County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Police responding, along with ambulances and rescue trucks from the Wabash Fire Department and Parkview Wabash Hospital.

The driver was led away in handcuffs, while paramedics treated those who needed medical attention. A sheet was used to cover the young man lying atop the hood until a body bag arrived to place him in.

Following the demonstration, Wieland told the students they just witnessed “one student leave in an ambulance, one student leave in a cop car and one was in a body bag.”

“When you think about that, this is real,” he continued. “This is what we could be dealing with this weekend with just one bad choice. This could be what we’re dealing with over graduation season with just one choice.

“You’re going to get back to the school today and you’re going to see all those people who were a part of the simulation. If this were real, we wouldn’t be. Some of these people would be going to jail. Some of these people we’d be visiting at a funeral home and being extremely emotional because of what could we have done a little bit differently?

“Are you going to be the friend that steps in, even though it isn’t the popular thing, tell your friend, ‘Hey, I don’t think you should be doing that. Let’s try this other way because I care about you and I’m concerned.”

The students, he said, will at times find themselves in the situation where they must be the unpopular voice.

“But I hope you take the time to think about those consequences,” Wieland said. “What can I do to make sure they’re safe and my friends and family are safe?

“Hopefully this got to you a little bit and will make you think twice in the future.”

Operation Safe Prom was a collective effort between Parkview Wabash Hospital, Wabash High School, Parkview EMS, Wabash City Fire, Wabash Police, Indiana State Police, the Wabash County Sheriff’s Department and the Wabash County Coroner.

Hospital officials give a special thank you to Rick’s Auto providing the vehicles that were used and to the Parks Department for allowing the use the Honeywell Pool parking lot.

Beside Reed, other WHS students taking part in the demonstration were Rebekah Freeman, Alec Wallisch, Gage Ballard, Isabel Hughes, Kia Jessee.

It was the first Safe Prom the school has conducted in a number of years and is something that all parties hope to continue annually, according to Kerri Mattern, Manager, Patient Experience & Volunteers and Community Health Initiatives for Parkview Wabash Hospital.

Posted on 2018 May 15