By Ed Runyan
A lecture about impaired or distracted driving won’t do much good, but a video showing teens the consequences can be a whole different story, Newton Falls High School junior Taylor Blandine said.
“They’d lose interest real soon in a lecture,” Blandine said Thursday morning after juniors and seniors at her school watched a video she and dozens of other Trumbull County high-school students produced.
Blandine and Jared Holt were the Newton Falls representatives in the program SMASH (Students Making A Safer Highway) created by the Ohio State Highway Patrol to educate Trumbull County high-school students about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. Nearly all Trumbull County high-school juniors and seniors will see the video before prom.
The video shows a boy and girl driving down the road, music loud, both teens drinking beer, both teens using cellphones and then a crash.
The video, produced with the help of the Multi-Media class at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, then shows Lt. Brian Holt, commander of the Southington post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, walking up the sidewalk to a nice suburban home and gently explaining to the woman answering the door that her daughter has been killed.
No voices can be heard, but the pain and shock experienced by both people hits the viewer like a punch in the face.
The video changes to clips of the girl from the crash about to engage in her normal activities — cheerleading, getting ready to leave home for prom, preparing to receive her high-school diploma, about to be asked to get married.
But each scene stops short, and the girl disappears from view, leaving her friends, father, principal and boyfriend alone to ponder her loss.
The scenes are briefly played backward, including the moments before the crash, but a voice says “STOP,” and succinctly adds, “Think about your actions. Life has no rewinds.”
Blandine said the part of the video that hits her most is the scene with the officer.
“I’ve had friends who died in a car accident, and I pictured the officer going up to their parents and telling them,” she said.
Cassie King, a Newton Falls senior viewing the video for the first time Thursday, agreed.
“My dad was a single dad for a long time, so I know if something like that happened to my sister or me, I can’t imagine what his reaction would have been, but it would have devastated him,” she said.
“I think people don’t think about how it [an accident] would affect everyone else.”
King said she also was moved by the information given by Sheri Jervis, the school resource officer, Blandine and Jared Holt, when they placed 11 pairs of shoes on a table at the front of the auditorium, and Jervis said that 11 young Trumbull County residents died in crashes in 2010 and 2011, seven of them involving impaired driving, all of them involving impaired or distracted drivers, unsafe speeds and/or no seat belts.
A second video Jervis and Newton Falls High School teacher Rachael Ullinskey assembled just for the Newton Falls students takes a little different approach, showing highway patrol photos of actual Trumbull County crashes. Some show the lifeless young people still jammed into the wreckage.
Logan Beechy, a junior who viewed the presentation, said the photos and the earlier video made an impact.
“I don’t think people think about those situations,” he said.
Jervis said afterward she knows it’s hard to get through to some people, no matter how hard you try to make them understand.
“My goal is if I can change one student’s mind about drinking on prom night and operating a motor vehicle, then I feel the [presentation] was well worth it.”