Mock accident shows students the consequences of drunk driving

JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — A screaming mother, students covered in fake blood and a team of first responders were seen at the scene of a mock accident at Cleveland High School, showing the frightening reality of impaired driving.

What you need to know

  • Law enforcement and first responders partnered with Cleveland High School in Johnston County to create a mock crash simulation to teach teen drivers the consequences of drunk and impaired driving
  • According to the NC Department of Transportation, distracted driving accounted for more than 44,000 crashes in North Carolina in 2020
  • Drunk driving caused 11,750 accidents in 2020, but caused 250% more deaths than distracted driving

Although the scene is emotional, it is intended to show young drivers the real consequences that distracted and impaired driving can cause.

The crash demonstrations are a collaborative effort between the Governor's Highway Safety Program, the State Highway Patrol, the Cleveland Fire Department, Duke Life Flight and other first responders.

State Trooper Colby Hall helped develop the idea.

“The main thing we wanted to address here with these crash scenes are four main points: speeding, impaired driving, distracted driving and seat belt use,” Hall said. “If we can follow all four, we’ll be in good shape.”

According to the NC Department of Transportation, more than 44,000 crashes in North Carolina were caused by distracted driving in 2020. DWIs caused about a quarter as many, 11,475, but resulted in more than 250% more deaths.

It's a statistic that mothers like Marilee Patterson experienced when her 15-year-old son Ethan Handly was killed by an impaired driver in 2019.

Patterson helped officers make the presentation and spoke to Cleveland High School students about the accident that changed their family forever.

“Ethan came home from the movies and was sitting at a red light. “Who knew you could hurt yourself sitting still?” she said. “The vehicle that Ethan was in was struck upon impact at approximately 85 miles per hour, and this occurred after the vehicle had reached speeds in excess of 110.”

Ethan and his friend's grandmother, Marjory Howell Wagner, who was driving the children home from the movie, were both killed in the accident.

“Every time you get behind the wheel, you can vote and save lives,” Patterson said. “You just never know when you will be faced with the choice of sparing another family the pain that my family will have to endure for the rest of our lives.”

The message comes as more drivers are on the road as prom, graduation and summer travel season approaches.

More safety information can be found here from the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

Anna Harden

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