Area firefighters, paramedics and police worked with Woodinville High School students last week to stage a "DUI Drill" during which the senior class witnessed the effects of drinking and driving. Above, paramedics "treat" one student, while (below) police "take away" the driver, played by Mark Piscitelli, for vehicular homicide.
Photos by Jeff Switzer/Woodinville Weekly.
by Jeff Switzer
When the tarps concealing the wreckage were pulled away, a gruesome scene of shattered glass and the broken bodies of friends and classmates gave many students and adults their first look at the reality of a fatal accident.
Within seconds, emergency crews were on the scene, helping the injured and covering the dead: Three fatalities (two of them dead on arrival), one critical injury, and several more with minor injuries.
The only one to walk away from the scene was taken away in handcuffs for vehicular homicide, all because he was drunk.
Woodinville High School, following in the footsteps of other schools in the country, held its first "DUI Drill" last week (reprised by Bothell High at the Teen Northshore Auto Show), at which local police, fire, and aid crews, along with the school and the PTSA, staged a graphic and complete accident scene to show the effects of drinking and driving.
Students played the roles of the injured, the deceased, and the drunk driver; as many as 25 firefighters and paramedics from Woodinville, Bothell, and Snohomish County, plus Woodinville and King County police officers, did the rest.
The audience for the demonstration was the majority of Woodinville's senior class, who are preparing to both graduate and attend the prom, two occasions known for partying and drinking.
"I'd never experienced anything like this before," said Mina Hochberg, a senior who witnessed the drill. "This was a good way of sending the message."
Hochberg said that while the scene was disturbing, she and her friends felt it was a good change from the past. "The 'don't drink and drive' message was getting kind of old," she said. "This was a fresh approach and I'm glad the audience took it seriously."
Reactions to the drill
"The seniors really responded well," said Principal David Jones. "I've heard nothing but positive things about it. I was stunned at how well it came together and I have a new respect and admiration for the emergency crews."
Jones said he is strongly in favor of having another simulation in the fall for the other classes.
Senior Mark Piscitelli, who is in the school's drama program, played the role of the drunk driver who was taken away by police and had a forced blood test during the simulation. He said he hopes his classmates got the message. "If you're in the car and you're not all together, don't turn the key, because it is your choice."
Piscitelli said he had a good feeling about his role because many of his friends said they changed their views after seeing it: If they drink, they won't drive. "The reading of the rights really made a difference," he said.
'I wish the sophomore and junior classes could have seen this'
More than 100 students filled out evaluations of the simulation, many saying it should be a school-wide event, possibly every year starting in ninth grade.
"Overall, it was really effective," one student wrote. "During the accident, my stomach was sick. Trust me, the presentation was effective."
Another student said the panel discussion was valuable because "it was good to hear people who had actually experienced this."
"Excellent job. It was so real it touched most people's hearts. It touched mine," another student wrote.
Two juniors, Rory Liebhart and Matt Leonard, filmed the drill seen by the seniors. "It's startling to see your friends all bloodied up," said Liebhart. "I think it should have been a whole-school thing; it would be good for everyone to see."
Fire crews, police see it all too often
"I've been out on numerous traffic accidents involving Woodinville High students, both the friends of my children, and kids I've coached from grade school on," said Fire Chief Jim Davis. "It's always difficult to hear how students make stupid decisions."
Davis said he hopes the drill helps young people make the decision not to drive if they've been drinking, and to call a friend or parent for a ride. "Or just stay where you are if you've been drinking," he added.
"I also hope it helps them make the decision not to get into a car with someone who has been drinking," Davis said.
Dave Leggett, public fire educator for Woodinville, said the area had an event like this at the schools because of the fatalities that were already happening.
"The total goal is to inform the high school students that there are choices to make in life that have life or death consequences," Leggett said.
Woodinville Police Administrator Rich Krogh said he felt the simulation was realistic. "It was pretty real life from my experience," he said.
The legal consequences
Persons under 21 driving a motor vehicle with a .02 or more blood alcohol level can lose their license for 90 days or until age 21, whichever is longer, for the first offense; one year or to age 21 for the second offense.
If a driver is offered a breathalizer test and refuses, and is subsequently convicted with "reasonable grounds to believe the person has been drinking," the driver could lose his or her license for one year; for the second refusal and conviction in five years, the loss of license is for two years or to age 21 (whichever is longer).
And these penalties are just the beginning. If there's an accident resulting in death, it becomes felony vehicular homicide.