Firefighters, police, EMTs and a helicopter converged on the Campus Green Friday in response to a simulated car crash aimed at warning students about the dangers of distracted driving, the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.
The Ghost Out, led and coordinated by Jeremy Hudak, service events coordinator for the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and Dean of Student Success Michael Sanseviro, offered students the opportunity to experience what happens during and after a serious traffic accident.
The simulated crash was handled as an actual emergency with help from the fire department, paramedics, police officers and student actors. The event featured speeches and testimonials from victims and family members who have been affected by accidents caused by distracted driving.
The Cobb County Ghost Out program for 2013 was developed out of concern for the community’s safety, said the Cherokee County Fire Department’s Brian Thomas, who narrated the simulation. The purpose of the Ghost Out was to alert students and community members of the seriousness of distracted or reckless driving as well as driving under the influence.
“This is a first for us here on the campus and hopefully this will become an annual event,” said Sanseviro, adding that he hopes to educate the community about the dangers of distracted driving.
Onlookers were able to see firefighters in action with the Jaws of Life as they removed pieces of a wrecked car from around a victim. A helicopter was also landed on the Campus Green to transport victims from the wreckage to Grady Hospital.
The audience was allowed an inside look into the devastation caused by distracted driving. Bronte Wright, who spent three weeks in a coma and seven weeks confined to a hospital bed after losing control of her car while texting and driving, spoke about her painful ordeal and her difficult journey to recovery.
“Any text is not worth it,” Wright said.
Wright’s mother, who also spoke, said she was very lucky that her daughter survived the accident and reminded students to “be safe — if not for you, for your loved ones.”
Cherokee County resident Amy Heil and her husband spoke about their grief and disbelief over the loss of their daughter, Victoria, who died in an accident while texting and driving without a seatbelt. Investigators speculated that she had unbuckled her seatbelt to reach for her phone while driving. The last message she received moments before the first 911 calls were made was from a friend advising her not to text and drive.
“Please, for Victoria and the many others that have destroyed their lives from texting and driving or not wearing their seatbelt,” Heil said. “We challenge you to put down your cell phone when you drive and wear your seatbelt and live your life to the fullest. Go impact the world the way you imagined.”
Hudak, who went to high school with Heil, said he was heavily impacted by the story and was inspired to share it with his fellow students.
“We’ve got to get the word out. It’s important,” said Hudak. “If we can change one person, and get them to think about what they shouldn’t be doing at their Halloween parties next week, it’s worth it”.