Posted Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Prom-goers see result of driving while drunk, high

Morris County School of Technology stages mock crash

Students witness a simulated crash at Morris County School of Technology a few days before prom to drive home the dangers of driving while drunk or high.

Students, first responders and even a local funeral home teamed up Wednesday to stage an all-too-real mock crash to deliver a sobering message about driving while drunk or high.

The senior class and other prom-goers filed into a parking lot on the campus of Morris County School of Technology on Wednesday to meet the scene of a two-car crash. Classmates portrayed the bloodied and lifeless victims of a head-on collision.

One student in a prom dress was sobbing, the tuxedoed driver was stumbling around the scene, another lay motionless, and a fourth was calling police on his cell phone. A police dispatch crackled over a speaker and emergency responders descended on the scene.

Morris County School of Technology stages mock crash

A student actor takes a field sobriety test during the mock crash.

“Shock-value” is the point of the exercise, said Morris County School of Technology resource officer Rick Duda. He wants to send a powerful message to the students not to indulge, not to drink and drive.

“When you watch it, you put yourself in that scenario and think, ‘What if I was the passenger, or what if my friends were the passengers,’” said junior Jenna Turner. “It’s hard to think that something like that is possible, that some of the students who were here that day wouldn’t be there the next.”

The scenario runs from Denville Township Fire Department EMTs treating the wounded actors before loading them into an ambulance, to the driver failing a field sobriety test before the township’s police handcuff him and lead him away. Township fire fighters extricate another victim from the back seat. The young actors are actually students in the school’s Law and Public Safety Academy.

Morris County School of Technology stages mock crash

High school students in MCST’s Law and Public Safety Academy portray accident victims to drive home the dangers of driving while drunk or high.

As scores of silent students watch from the parking lot’s periphery, a hearse from Norman Dean Funeral Home drives in to take the body of the lifeless victim, now covered in a white sheet. Later, that student actor lay in an open coffin as a funeral director wheels it past those sitting in the gymnasium’s bleachers for a mock funeral.

“Don’t let the culmination of your four years here at school be defined by one act of stupidity,” Duda tells the students. “Make a good decision. Do the right thing.”

It’s all over in an hour and the students head back to class. With prom scheduled for Friday, teachers and police hope that the message gets through.

“If you look at the students, the reflective look on their faces, you can tell this is sinking in. At some point, either right before the prom or right after the prom or after prom weekend — or three or five or 10 years from now, they will reflect back on this experience and make a wiser decision because of this simulated crash,” said Denville Chief of Police Chris Wagner.

“Somewhere this is registering with these kids. It’s worth every minute of the time spent.”