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'Ghost Out' shows high school students the dangers of driving drunk
Consequences hit home with staged crash
W 032312 GHOST OUT 01
Steve Green, left, and Brent Conner, right, of the Statesboro Fire Department and Bulloch County Sheriff Department chaplain Joey Fennell demonstrate the tasks involved in a fatal auto accident to the Statesboro High student body during Friday's Ghost Out to educate students about the consequences of driving under the influence or distracted driving.

    Students at a pair of area high schools were given a sobering reminder Friday of the extreme dangers associated with driving under the influence.
    They watched as classmates were torn from mangled vehicles and lifted from the ground, their scarred and lifeless faces covered with white sheets, and placed in ambulances and even a coroner’s van.
    Rows of young people looked on as police and fire personnel surrounded the scene of a three-car accident, bandaging survivors and preparing for transport those who were not so lucky.
    The dramatic moments were part of DUI-related crash simulations at Southeast Bulloch High School and Statesboro High School conducted through a partnership between the schools, the Bulloch County Commission on Health and Human Services, Statesboro Police and Fire Departments, Bulloch County Sheriffs Department and EMS and EVAC agencies.
    Officials host the yearly program, dubbed “Ghost Out,” to promote awareness of the dire consequences for driving distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    “This is our second year doing the big crash. It is great interaction between students, EMS, police and fire departments where spectators can actually see what would happen with a DUI crash,” said Emily Austin, a Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) Coordinator who worked to
organize the event. “It gives the students a great perspective on the very real impact of driving under the influence.”
    “We can see impact in the schools,” she said. “Students have come up to me and said: ‘I remember the accident scene. I was offered alcohol and decided not to do it, because I didn’t want to end up like the driver or a victim.”
    Statesboro High School junior and senior students lined a large field located adjacent to the school building to watch their version of the wreck just after lunch Friday — the Southeast Bulloch event occurred earlier in the morning.
    They saw a small group of senior students — part of a CMCA Youth Council that has worked for about six months to stage the event — scattered, bloodied in and around a trio of vehicles involved in a devastating accident.
    One girl lied limp in the back of a small white pickup, starring blankly at the crowd gathered to look at her. Doors of the pickup had been jarred open by the force of the wreck, exposing another blood-stained girl, this one still breathing, but badly hurt.
    A few feet away, a pair of cars rested, facing each other still after the head-on collision that brought them to a stop.
    Inside one car, the driver was slumped down, obviously deceased, while passengers screamed for help and mourned their dead friend. Inside the other, a driver who caused the mess inspected damage and checked on the status of her wounded riders — including one boy who was jettisoned from the car and lie face up in the grass.
    A fourth driver came upon the scene, checked the status of those hurt and called police for assistance.
    Seconds later, police, fire and emergency medical vehicles all arrived on-scene, sirens blaring.
    They were joined later by an EVAC helicopter that landed on the field (to the amazement of most students).
    Personnel handled the situation like they would an actual accident.
    Two firefighters used the jaws-of-life to open a car door and extract students. Others covered lifeless bodies and loaded them into a coroner’s van for transport.
    Wounded students were bandaged and taken to an ambulance, while the driver of the at-fault car took part in a discussion with a Georgia State Patrol officer that ended in a field sobriety test and arrest.
    Later, the crowd moved into the Statesboro High auditorium to watch a film that concluded the story — using the same actors.
    Students watched as paramedics failed to save the young man thrown from the car and saw the at-fault driver face her court date, when she was sentenced to serve a minimum of nine years for the deaths she inadvertently caused.
    The afternoon served as a bit of a wake-up call, or at least a reminder, about the possible horrific consequences of breaking the law, according to students.
    “I thought it was really realistic. It makes you think about what could actually happen,” said Roz Goodson, a junior at SHS.
    “It’s pretty sobering,” she said. “Though, I definitely have no desire to drive drunk in the first place.”
    Senior Freddie Burden believes the message is an important one for his classmates.
    “It’s definitely a bad thing — to drink and drive,” he said. “I think it is a good thing to show students what could happen to them if they decide to do that during prom or whenever. I hope people learn something from it.”
    According to Statesboro High School Principal Marty Waters, the simulation occurs at a critical time for his school’s students.
    “Prom is next weekend, and we know there is a likelihood that kids will be tempted,” he said. “So we try to make them mindful to make good choices ahead of time.”
    “We need our students to understand that poor decisions can lead to tragic results,” Waters said. “Being able to see this in a mock situation allows them know the outcomes of choosing to drink and drive.”
    Austin says she hopes Friday’s images will remain with students as they partake in prom festivities.
    “We do this event just prior to prom to keep the image fresh in their mind — of seeing their classmates sprawled out on the ground here — so they think maybe drinking isn’t such a good idea,” she said.
    Burden believes Friday’s event will help, but admits students will have to work together.
    “There is a lot of worry,” he said, about classmates driving drunk. “We all just have to watch out for everybody and make sure no one is doing something they shouldn’t be.”

    Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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