Learning the easy way

gilpin alive and wellBarbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. The auto crash in front of the Gilpin High School was a grim scene, fraught with the horrific images of injured teens and crumpled metal.

But it wasn’t anywhere near how horrible it would be were it real.

Usually at this time of year, the “Alive at 25” program depicts an accident that was caused by drinking and driving as a cautionary message to teens before prom night. This year the mock fatality accident was caused by texting and driving, or distracted driving, a moment’s decision that could impact many lives forever.

On Thursday, April 30, a mock two-car accident was staged outside the school. Fake blood splattered the “patients,” four of whom were injured and one was dead. Timberline Fire Protection District, Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office, State Patrol, Central City and Black Hawk Fire Departments, Gilpin Ambulance Authority, Gilpin County School District and the Jefferson and Gilpin County District Attorney’s Office and Combined Courts joined in the multi-agency event.

The firefighters used hydraulic spreaders to force open car doors to extricate trapped patients. Gary Allen, Central City Fire Chief, was the Incident Commander. When the patients were extricated from the vehicles they were loaded into ambulances and the coroner’s car. Students were then taken to the court house for a mock trial of the driver, a teen who was texting and driving.

Timberline Fire Chief Glenn Levy says the “Alive at 25” exercise has a profound impact on students and he was excited to be part of it.

“Distracted driving has become the lead cause of death in young people under 25,” says Chief Levy.

“There are enough young people dying while texting that we are compelled to do everything we can to save a life. These are not statistics; these are someone’s daughters and sons, sisters and brothers.”

By the time a person is 25, he or she is likely to be more mature, more responsible, and of the mindset that none of us is invincible. When we watch the news and see disasters, we do not see the one person, the one family that is impacted.

Chief Levy says he hopes that teens would ask themselves if they really need to answer a text or a phone call while they are driving. He says maybe if they see what an accident looks like, if they see how long it takes to cut someone out of a car, they would think to pull over or just not answer the call until they have stopped driving.

The “Alive at 25” exercise gave responders a chance to partner with other agencies to solve problems and to show kids the consequences of their texting activities. It also gave the emergency workers a chance to work with the school and the students and create relationships on the front end.

“We at Timberline feel passionate about serving the community. The volunteers truly have a calling. If we can change one person’s actions, it would be awesome. To have one kid pull over, to show leadership with his peers would be awesome. It takes one minute to pull over.”

Levy says the student participation as actors was impressive. The exercise involved everything that happened from the crash, the extrication, the trial and the sentencing, with specific dire consequences from beginning to end.

When Levy’s daughter was with him at the scene of an accident she became upset and began crying, saying, that could have been my mom. Until it happens to someone you know, you don’t see the outcome of actions. Everything is fine until it isn’t.

Levy says that a serious accident as a minor can change your ability to drive, your access to insurance, or a driver’s license. Not to mention the civil issues involved in an injury accident.

“This is a serious deal and you don’t want to go through it, so take a deep breath and consider the hazards before you pick up the phone while driving.”

There are free smartphone apps that keep distraction to a minimum by making the phone inaccessible if it is in a car going 20 mph or faster, sending the caller a message that the owner of the phone will call back.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.