Sometimes alcohol is involved but texting, cell phone usage, and other poor driving habits are also to blame. No matter the cause the result is the same – thousands of teenagers are killed or injured every year in motor vehicle accidents.
Hoping to stem the tide of such tragedies, Apex High School hosted the Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person program on Thursday.
“VIP for a VIP” is a privately-funded project that brings the message of driver safety awareness to students in a unique and emotional manner. Apex police, firefighters and EMS along with the NC Highway Patrol also participated in the program.
Apex High Principal Matt Wight said he believed it was a good time to remind students about driving awareness.
“I watch the news like everyone else,” said Wight. “In the last week there have been four kids killed. Since I’ve been at Apex, I’ve been here four years, we’ve been very fortunate. But just before I came there had been a number of traffic accidents with student fatalities. So we felt like it was time to remind the students (about safety awareness) because this group of kids had not been through that.”
Students listened to various guest speakers during the morning session, including a father whose son was killed in an accident.
“You could hear a pin drop in the gymnasium,” said Apex Deputy Fire Marshall David Dillon. “He spoke about the trooper coming to his house and giving a death notification that his son had been killed.”
The students were also shown videos on the effects of motor vehicle accidents on the human body.
The results of a fatal traffic accident were simulated in the high school parking lot in front of more than 1,000 juniors and seniors. A young actor was extricated from the crashed car before emergency workers worked in vain to save his life. Adding to the emotion was the arrival of the driver’s parents who screamed at first responders to save their son’s life.
The driver is eventually placed in a body bag and lifted into the ambulance as the mother screams for her son.
Bobby Bulla, a captain with the High Point Fire Department and a VIP volunteer, told the students that the simulation was an accurate portrayal. He told them their actions had consequences that would affect them along with friends and family.
“You are under-experienced drivers and overconfident,” said Bulla. “That is bad combination. Choices and consequences is what we’ve been talking about. Please think about what you are doing and who you are doing it with.
“It affects your family and friends and it affects us. We carry (the memories of responding to accidents) with us. We will never forget that mom running up and saying, ‘Don’t let my baby die.’ Remember, it is up to you – choices and consequences.”
Besides avoiding the obvious dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, Bulla also urged students not to text or use cell phones while driving and told them importance of wearing a seat belt.
He also said he realized that his message wouldn’t reach every student.
“I’ve been doing this 24 years and I know I won’t get to all of you,” said Bulla. “But we’ll get to you when you are overturned or wrapped around a tree.”
Wight said he was confident that many of the students understood and appreciated the message.
“I know it made it impression,” said Wight. “I’ve already had students come up to me and say ‘Thank you.’”
“There were students crying and students who were very emotional,” said Dillon. “If we can do something like this and prevent just one from being injured or killed in a traffic accident then it is all worth it.”
At the end of the program a white cross was placed in front of the accident scene along with a single rose.
“Let’s hope that white cross isn’t for Apex High School,” said Bulla. “I hope and pray it isn’t.”