Distracted driving was the cause of a two-car accident at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds Wednesday, where a pickup truck slammed into the side of a white Pontiac killing the driver instantly and injuring the two girls inside the pickup. The driver and passenger were taken to a nearby emergency room where doctors and nurses were unable to save the passenger who suffered trauma to the neck and legs.
This staged scenario was replayed several times for students of Darlington and Floyd County high schools Wednesday to show the dangers of distracted driving. The simulation was preceded by a sobering story from Floyd EMS Marshall Green who talked about the car accident that took the life of his two sons. It was an incident where his wife, who had never been in a wreck in her life, was briefly distracted by one of their sons for three seconds, causing her to run a stop sign and as a result was struck by a tractor trailer.
“Statistics say that not everyone in this room will make it to graduation,” Green said. “I hope that the statistic is wrong, but statistics don’t lie.”
He said he hoped to curb that statistic by telling his story and showing the wreck scenario.
The teenagers were then split up into different groups and reported to different parts of the teen maze to begin exploring what dangers and obstacles face them as teenagers. One group followed Brooke Gravely, the passenger from the simulated wreck, to an artificial emergency room where Georgia Highlands College nursing students acted out trying to save her and failing.
Depending on their group, students would draw slips of paper that randomly assigned them to different parts of the maze where they would follow their story thread to see if it led to death, dropping out of high school or graduation. For example, if a student drew that they had unprotected sex they might be assigned a sexual disease which could prove fatal, or they could suddenly find themselves a parent or in jail for drinking and driving. The goal is to get to graduation and give students a new perspective on their life as teenagers.
Each station was carefully set up and volunteers acted out the parts to the students. Shorter University nursing students strapped 20 pound rice bags to the front of the young men and women who suddenly found themselves parents as they were told what happens through each stage of pregnancy. Volunteers from the sheriff’s office and the Department Juvenile Justice processed those who found themselves convicted of crimes, taking their mug shots and having them talk with parole officers.
These overwhelming situations were intentional said Christa Gilmore, youth development coordinator for the Northwest Georgia Public Health District. The point was to let students see how these situations can play out and starts a conversation between students, parents and teachers.
“We are forcing the kids to have uncomfortable situations,” she said. “They are learning consequences in a safe environment.”
The Floyd County Teen Maze is in its 7th year and is coordinated by the Northwest Georgia Public Health District and the Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth.