January 20, 2022

Mock crash shows effects of drinking, distracted driving

‘It opens the kids’ eyes’

Shenandoah Briere/contributing photographer

McGraw Central School District students watch as McGraw firefighters, Cortland County sheriff’s officers, state police and several ambulances respond to a mock car accident. The accident was done to show students what the consequences of drinking or distracted driving could look like.

A body laid lifeless through the windshield of a car and onto the hood as firefighters worked to cut away the frame of another car to get the passengers out. Students from McGraw High School watched silently, some filming the mock car accident.

“It’s crazy,” 16-year-old Bayley Mead said.

Mead said seeing the number of people it takes to get everyone out of the car was scary: several McGraw firefighters, two Cortland County sheriff’s officers, a state police trooper and several emergency medical services personnel.

The mock car accident comes one day before students head to prom for a night of fun and dancing and about three to fourth months after McGraw Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Harvey approached McGraw High School Principal Mark Dimorier with the idea.

Mock crash, real statistics

• In 2016, 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16 to 19 were killed and 292,742 were treated for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. Six died because of crashes each day.
• Per mile driven, drivers 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal crash. The motor vehicle death rate for male drivers ages 16 to 19 was twice that of their female counterparts.
• The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
• The fatal crash rate per mile driven is nearly twice as high for 16-17 year olds compared with 18-19 year olds.
• In 2016, 49% of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight, and 53% occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
• In 2017, only 59% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding as passengers.
• In 2016, 58% of drivers aged 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.
• Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, 32% were speeding and 21% had been drinking.
• In 2016, 15% of drivers 16 to 20 in fatal motor vehicle crashes were drunk.
• In the 2017 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16.5% of high school students reported they had ridden with a driver in the past month who had been drinking.

SOURCE: National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Harvey said he wanted to do the mock crash for two reasons: to show the kids what can happen because of drinking and driving or distracted driving; and to get people interested in joining the department.

“It opens the kids’ eyes,” Harvey said. “You don’t think bad things are going to happen until it’s your friends. It also opened their eyes to say, ‘Hey I could be helping my friends.’”

McGraw did a smaller version of the mock crash years ago, Dimorier said, but it was nothing like what he saw Friday at Bennett Field.

The mock scene showed two cars that had collided with several people involved. The driver of one car was given a field sobriety test by sheriff’s officers and had to take a breathalyzer test. He would eventually be arrested for driving while intoxicated. His passenger flew through windshield and was dead by the time first responders arrived.

In another vehicle, at least two people were trapped and had to be extricated. Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti narrated what was happening during the scenario.

“It kind of scares me,” 18-year-old Brendan May said. “I don’t want to get into an accident knowing how long it takes to get them out and also knowing there’s a small chance that people are coming out of this unharmed.”

By the end of the scenario, first responders had taken almost 40 minutes to get everyone out of the vehicles and remove the body from the windshield.

“You got a lot to celebrate, but you got a lot ahead of you,” Perfetti said. “Be responsible. Watch out for each other.”