By Rob Glidden
Southington High School’s senior class was given a dire warning about the dangers of distracted driving, during an assembly that was put together by community volunteers.
Usually done shortly before the senior prom, warning students about the risks of drunk driving is something of a tradition at high schools. However, the rise of accidents as a result of drivers sending text messages rather than paying attention to the road has prompted local administrators to try and address this issue as well.
“We want the kids to understand the risks involved with distracted driving,” said SHS Principal Dr. Martin Semmel. “We care about them and we want them to make the right decision. The prom may be this weekend, but this is important every day.”
School resource officer Don Mackenzie said that texting distracts a person’s eyes, hands and brain all at once, making it a terrible activity to do while driving. There were several videos that depicted the aftermath of serious accidents, along with a totaled car sitting in front of the school.
“You might say that it’s just a video and that won’t happen, but I’ve been a police officer for ten years and I’ve seen it,” Mackenzie said.
One of the first videos depicted simulated violence and even had a figure wandering around the scene dressed like the Grim Reaper. This got some laughs from the students, but the videos got progressively more intense and included real footage from accidents and emergency surgeries. A handful of students found the scenes too visceral and left the room.
“I’ve seen hundreds of teens who have been injured in car crashes,” said Dina DeGumbia, a registered nurse who is also co-president of the high school’s PTO. “Most of them are as a result of distracted driving.”
In addition to the physical risks of drunk or distracted driving, there are also considerable legal ones. Town Councilor Lou Martocchio, a local attorney, spoke about Connecticut’s strict driving laws and the massive financial consequences that can come after an accident where the driver was behaving irresponsibly.
“Assuming you make it through the accident and the trauma, then you have to deal with me,” Martocchio said.
To further drive home the consequences, a woman sitting in the auditorium surprised the crowd by recounting the death of her parents at the hands of a drunk driver.
“It’s scary to get a reminder that these things happen in real life,” said SHS senior Taylor Waters. “Her story really got to me. It’s horrible that a single act could do that.”
Fellow student Bryan Davis said that the presentation “definitely had an impact. The videos they had really showed the dangers of distracted driving and the speakers were really interesting.”