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South Valley Journal

Herriman High mock crash event brings reality to students

Nov 02, 2017 02:48PM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

What is left of two vehicles involved in a deadly crash caused by distracted driving. (Jenn Gardiner/City Journals)

By Jennifer Gardiner| [email protected]    

Herriman High School students got a large dose of reality when Unified Police Department brought a simulated crash scene along with a mock funeral to their school.

The simulation happened on Oct. 11 in front of students from both Herriman High School and Providence Hall Charter School. 

Det. Cynthia Archuleta, Herriman High School resource officer, said they wanted to show the students the reality of what can happen or what the aftermath is when you make poor decisions and how it doesn’t just affect your life but affects many others lives around you. 

“One of the most important things that we can do as police officers and educators here within the schools is teach the kids the dangers of distracted driving,” Archuleta said. “Not just distracted driving but impaired driving, drowsy driving, aggressive driving and failing to wear their seatbelts.”

Archuleta said young drivers inexperience is a cause for accidents. 

“They have no experience on the road, and they simply cannot stay multi-tasking,” Archuleta said. “They cannot talk to passengers or friends in the car without losing focus on the road ahead of them, and as a result, car crashes are the leading cause of fatalities among this age group: high school aged kids.”

Unified Police Department partnered with several organizations to make this happen. Zero Fatalities, University of Utah Air Med, Unified Fire Department and representatives from Canyons School District came together and wanted to educate the kids in all the dangers of distracted driving on the road. 

“The simulation was so important, and we all feel very passionate about the need to educate kids that ‘Hey, it’s dangerous out there,’” Archuleta said. “No one is invincible; anyone can be a statistic to a car crash or a fatality.” 

School officials started the process by selecting a handful of students who all agreed they wanted to be a part of the simulation. Each student involved wrote his or her own stories that were played during the assembly, each sharing what he or she would want students to know about their decisions. 

Most of the five behaviors that law enforcement always talk about were a part of the scenario in the crash. There was aggressive driving, not focusing on the road, running a red light, drinking, and driving and taking off their seat belts as well as texting and driving. Two students were killed in the head-on collision; their bodies were covered with white sheets. Another student was taken by Air Med and another by ambulance, while the driver and a passenger were arrested. 

Many students sat in shock from the reality of the situation as the scene played out right in front of their eyes. Feeling what it would be like if this was them, or their friends who had to go through this very same thing, all because of a bad decision. 

First responders often arrive on scenes like these. Archuleta has seen more real fatal accidents than she wishes she had ever had to see. She felt it was important to show the students the aftermath of a collision—the real-life results of making poor decisions along the road. 

“It is devastating for us to arrive on a scene and see such a young person with their whole life ahead of them and have their future taken away,” Archuleta said. “So many things I wish I never had to see and never should have had to witness.” 

 Several students were in tears; many were affected by what they had to see during the simulation and the aftermath of having to have a funeral for their friends. 

LeAnn, a senior who attended the mock crash, said any one mistake can lead to a car crash and that can cause so many long-term effects. 

“Being a senior and driving a lot, it made me realize how important people are around me and the decisions I make,” she said. “It put it in perspective of how big an accident can be, and it made it real to see my friends who were in the car or who died, and we saw their pictures and their parents who were affected with the loss of their child.”

After the simulated crash, students gathered inside the gymnasium where two caskets were displayed and a mock funeral was performed. Dustin Pearce, head football coach,  talked about the loss of one of his star players, and the parents of another student talked about how they will never get to hug their daughter again. A spokesperson for Zero Fatalities and the director of Larkin Mortuaries spoke with students on the facts of teen fatalities and the reality of a family having to bury their child. 

For some students who might not have felt the lump in their throat or the pit at the bottom of their stomach being a witness to such a horrific crash, Archuleta has a message for their parents.

“Everything we do as teachers and educators also relies on the parents to help drive the message home to their kids,” Archuleta said. “Lead by example. Are you texting and driving, wearing your seat belts or following the laws that do not allow their kids to drive with their peers until a certain age? We really need have to have their input.” 

Over the last 10 years, 285 teens aged 13–19 have died on Utah roads, 34 of them in 2016. Nationally, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. Teen drivers aged 16–19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.