Bald Eagle

Mock crashes show BEA students real risks of distracted driving

State police Cpl. Scott Rossman conducts a demonstration field sobriety test on Bald Eagle Area senior Mitchell Taylor during a mock accident at Bald Eagle Area High School on Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
State police Cpl. Scott Rossman conducts a demonstration field sobriety test on Bald Eagle Area senior Mitchell Taylor during a mock accident at Bald Eagle Area High School on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. CDT photo

Blood coated the student parking lot at Bald Eagle Area High School on Tuesday morning. Glass from broken car windows also covered the ground.

Fire and EMS personnel from the Bald Eagle, Mountain Top and Nittany Valley regions closed traffic to parts of the parking lot, while they performed cleanup and rescue efforts of two vehicle crashes at the school.

A Life Flight helicopter even arrived to assist in the incidents.

It was a scene you only hoped wasn’t real.

And luckily they were mock accidents.

Bald Eagle Area School District teamed up with local public safety officials to demonstrate two drills for about 400 students that emphasized the importance of making good decisions behind the wheel.

It was spearheaded by Snow Shoe EMS Chief Sharon Nilson and members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions club.

The scenarios are performed every two years for the students — and by the students with help from local EMS and fire companies — around the time of year that distracted driving accidents spike, Nilson said.

“We’re going into prom weekend and want to show students the things they should avoid,” Nilson said. “One wrong move could make a lifetime of regrets.”

Crews set up two faux accidents that involved drunken and distracted drivers in fatal crashes.

“It’s scary to be sitting in a car and the roof is cut off above you, and it’s not even a real accident,” said senior Jessie Jenkins.

Jenkins, 18, was one of nine students in the SADD club who participated in the program.

In her role, she was trapped in the car of a driver who was texting and hit another vehicle, head-on.

“I think having a visual of a crash like this is more effective on students, than just hearing things like not to drink or be on the phone when driving,” Jenkins said. “I think seeing it firsthand makes a bigger impression on us.”

State police Cpl. Scott Rossman, who has 16 years on the force, said he sees people driving distracted nearly every day.

As it creates havoc on the road, “it’s a reality that needs to be addressed,” Rossman said.

“We stress it to kids during prom season with an emphasis on safety, but it’s something we’re proactive about all year,” he said. “We want people, no matter their age, to make good decisions.”

In the scenarios, some students were critically injured. Others, like senior Nicole Bonsell, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Another handful of students who were also junior fire and EMS personnel participated in the cleanup and rescue part of the scene.

BEA junior Hunter Vandermark, a junior Howard firefighter, helped load injured students into ambulances.

He said he and a classmate, junior Snow Shoe EMS member Justin Kobularcik, prepared for the mock accidents around 7 a.m. by prepping the firetrucks and ambulances, and helping student victims with moulage wounds.

Kobularcik said he hasn’t had to respond to a serious accident yet, and encourages people to take a few easy steps to help avoid accidents.

“You can just keep your phone in the glove box as a way to make sure you’re not checking it,” he said.

State police also held a seminar with students to debrief them on everyday scenarios that involved drunken and distracted driving.

“We want to get their attention before it’s too late,” Rossman said. “You can prevent a crash or something worse just by putting your phone down or asking someone for a ride if you can’t drive.”

First responders that helped with the program Tuesday included EMS and fire companies from Bellefonte, Howard, Milesburg, Port Matilda and Snow Shoe.

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