By MORGAN MANNS
As graduation approaches and the school year comes to an end, area officials are sending a message:
“No distractions while you drive, and you’ll keep yourself alive.”
Youth-to-Youth members at Fostoria Junior/Senior High School organized and presented a two-vehicle mock crash to their peers Tuesday morning at the school in an effort to demonstrate the effects of driving under the influence and not wearing a seatbelt and how those decisions can have life-shattering consequences.
“Even if it helps just a few kids, then it’s all worth it,” Ellen Groves, Youth-to-Youth assistant advisor, said. “Sometimes you know you can’t always reach everyone. But hopefully these few can impact the others to make good choices.”
The scene was set as two vehicles full of students on their way to and from graduation parties had collided into each other after an impaired driver — portrayed by Tony Lear — lost control and struck the other. Those in the audience witnessed as those able to get out of the vehicle did so, the pain they felt for their peers written across their faces.
Throughout the crash, Groves and Sgt. Jordan Schwochow with the Ohio State Highway Patrol detailed what happens during a crash and immediately following.
Schwochow explained within 1/5 of a second of the vehicles colliding, the passengers continue to move at the vehicle’s original speed, a force that is 20 times the normal force of gravity.
“All passengers who were not restrained by seat belts were off their seats,” he said.
The force of the crash would have caused Trey Groves, the driver of the other vehicle who was not wearing his seatbelt, to hit the steering column and be ejected from the vehicle, ultimately giving him fatal injuries.
Caleb Brough, a backseat passenger in Groves’ vehicle who was also not wearing his seatbelt, was also thrown forward, out of the backseat, through the front and landing on the hood of the vehicle with fatal injuries.
Schwochow continued, stating in 7/10 of a second, the bodies of the vehicles are forced out of shape and the doors are jammed shut, which can trap someone inside the vehicle, such as Elisia Ledesma, the front-seat passenger in Groves’ vehicle.
Area emergency crews, who were in on the mock crash, treated it like the real deal. They waited around the corner to be “dispatched” to the mock scene and acted immediately.
Fostoria Fire Division crews took care of the mock injuries, extricating the trapped Ledesma from the vehicle and prepping Olivia Hill-Hernandez, the front-seat passenger in the at-fault vehicle, to be flighted from the scene. She was also not wearing her seatbelt and was thrown forward into the dashboard where her mock injuries of broken ribs and a punctured lung were sustained.
Meanwhile, Fostoria police Sgt. Clayton Moore spoke with Tony, the at-fault driver who was wearing his seatbelt and sustained minor injuries.
Schwochow explained the at-fault driver in situations such as this could be charged with vehicular homicide, a fourth-degree felony. If convicted, the at-fault party could spend up to 5-10 years in a state prison, be responsible for fines up to $2,000 and lose their license for life.
“What you have seen today is a dramatization, but it is a very accurate one,” Ellen Groves told the audience of students. “This type of crash happens many times each year right in our area. The occupant’s in these vehicles thought that this could never happen to them. Remember, it can happen to you.”
As a final touch, Mann-Hare-Hoening Funeral Home employees showed up in a hearse to take the acting deceased away.
The mock event ended with officials stating they aren’t trying to scare the students but to make them aware of the dangers of distracted driving and to remind them not to text and drive, eat and drive, consume alcohol at their age, use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs and to wear their seatbelts.
“Whether you’re driving or in the car, we just want you to make smart decisions,” Principal Drew Bauman said. “Loss is real and it effects in so many ways the people you are loved by and those you love. Be responsible and be careful.”
Other student participants included Kaitlyn Casiano, back-seat passenger in the at-fault vehicle who was wearing a seatbelt and sustained minor mock injuries; and Zoe Rice and Jasmine Groves, 9-1-1 callers.