Mount View High School students get schooled on the dangers of OUI
Thorndike — Emergency personnel work to cut injured passengers out of two vehicles as another crew works to extinguish a blazing truck fire.
The dangers of drinking and driving are all too evident to the students as the scenario unfolds before the eyes of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors at Mount View High School.
Fortunately, this time it is just a drill — an all too stark reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.
The mock drunk driving crash scene, aptly titled “Survive the Drive,” is an event presented by the high school and the Waldo County Sheriff's Office with the assistance of local fire and ambulance services, as well as the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency.
The event, held Friday, May 16, takes place a day before the district's annual prom. The purpose is to show students what can happen if they choose to drink and drive and involved an actual burning car and the Jaws of Life rescue equipment.
Prior to the mock OUI crash scene, students listened to a brief presentation from School Resource Officer Nick Oettinger who discussed the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Oettinger, who has had to personally deliver news to parents about their children dying in crashes due to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said the goal of the presentation is to demonstrate to students the consequences of OUI.
After his presentation, Oettinger screened a short video made with the help of Mount View High School students preparing to head out to their prom. Before leaving, the students knock back a few drinks and as they head out the door the scene fades to black before the sound of screeching tires, breaking glass and rending metal can be heard.
Students then headed outside to the bus barn area on the Mount View Complex where the mock OUI crash scene was set up. The crash involved three vehicles, two of which were driven by intoxicated students, and a pickup truck that was caught in the wreck.
As the scene unfolded, local fire departments simultaneously battled a fire in the cab and bed of the pickup truck, as other crews worked to cut injured students out of the two vehicles with the Jaws of Life.
While firefighters attempted to free the trapped students, emergency medical services personnel prepared stretchers and rushed the victims from the scene as they were cut free.
The mock crash scenario lasted about 40 minutes and showed students first hand what can happen when drunk drivers get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Once it ended, students were ushered back into the Mount View High School gymnasium where Oettinger presented some sobering facts about the frequency of OUI crashes in Waldo county.
According to Oettinger, in 2013 there were a total of 274 personal injury crashes and 937 property damage crashes for a total of 1,211 crashes involving personal injury or property damage. He explained to students that number of crashes averaged out over the year meant there were three motor vehicle accidents that occurred every day.
Even more startling — of the 1,211 crashes in 2013 — approximately one-third were due to someone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That meant that every single day of the year in Waldo county in 2013, an accident happened because someone was operating under the influence, he said.
“The scene you guys just saw happens on a regular basis in Waldo county and the state of Maine,” Oettinger said.
The presentation ended with a question and answer session where students asked about the severity of the charges a driver would face after being involved in a crash as depicted in the mock scenario, to how emergency personnel do their jobs at the scene.
Mount View High School Principal Cheri Towle said this year's “Survive the Drive” is the largest event the school has held and was pulled off because of the work of Oettinger who contacted the various agencies involved.
Towle said in addition to getting the message across to students about the hazards of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, officials will also randomly be conducting breathalyzer tests on students attending the prom Saturday, May 17.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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