June 8, 1998
This could easily be the lead for just another story you read in the newspaper about teenage recklessness and bravado gone tragically awry. But it was only a simulated drunk driving accident staged by the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District, Woodinville Police and King County Sheriff's deputies. Held in a parking lot in front of the entire junior class at WHS last Tuesday morning, the message was simple; if you drink, don't drive. It's especially timely with graduation and summer activities coming up.
The drill mixed shock value with familiar faces. Students portrayed the victims and suspect. After a tarp was pulled off the wreck, somber-faced juniors watched as aid crews treated injured classmates, wheeling some into an ambulance. The two "fatalities" remained where they had died, unmoving counterpoints to the buzz of activity around them. "We don't have the magical ability to turn things back," Dave Leggett, WFLSD public educator, told the crowd of about 200 students.
"All those guys are my friends," said Andrew Wilson, 17, afterwards. He said the accident was "pretty realistic" and had affected him.
Later, students listened to guest speakers. Woodinville Police Sgt. Ken Wardstrom told a story about how, as a young officer, he had to comfort the parents of a 16-year-old girl who died after her car rolled into a ravine and trapped her underneath. "If you have consumed alcohol, don't drive," Wardstrom advised. What he hopes will happen is that kids will recognize that their parents would be far happier coming to pick them up if they've been drinking, rather than visiting their child in the hospital, or perhaps having to go to the county medical examiner's office to make an identification of a dead loved one. "If I catch you, it's not because I'm picking on you, it's because I have some real feelings [about drunk driving]," Wardstrom said.
Wes Bates, a Woodinville attorney who graduated from WHS in 1988, detailed the legal penalties for driving under the influence. He said that first time offenders face losing their licenses for a year and that attorney fees range between $3,000 and $5,000. If someone is killed, it could be 40 years jail time for vehicular homicide. "It's not worth being put in jail or killing somebody," Bates said. He also told the class of 1999 that some colleges won't accept students with serious criminal convictions.
Afterwards, students were asked to fill out evaluations on the presentation. One anonymous report read in part, "Great job. I especially liked the stories from Sgt. Wardstrom. It's about time high schoolers learned the legal consequences of their actions."
"It made things a lot clearer, the effect of certain decisions you make when you drive," said Tadj Arvizu, a junior.
According to Sam Jackson, WHS assistant vice principal, in the future every junior class will see the demonstration. According to federal statistics, teenagers are the only group whose death rate has increased in the last 20 years because of drunk driving. Fourteen teens die each day in drunk driver accidents.
To quell teen drinking, the King County Sheriff's Office is running its second annual "Party Patrol." Almost 100 minors were arrested for minor in possession on the first weekend the patrol was active.
Don't drink and drive