03/30/12 — Message to teens: Irresponsibility in car can cost you your life

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Message to teens: Irresponsibility in car can cost you your life

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 30, 2012 1:46 PM


Emergency personnel take care of a car crash "victim" as Kelly Grooms, center left, and Jenny Zayonce, center right, react to the news that their son, played by Chris May, won't live. The scene was part of an effort to increase teens' awareness of the danger of inattentive and drunken driving.

The passenger car was left mangled. A team of Goldsboro firefighters used the Jaws of Life to remove the driver's door and to peel back the vehicle's roof to retrieve the 18-year-old's lifeless body.

Then, the Wayne County EMS arrived to remove the victim in a body bag as his mother stood, sobbing, by the side of the road.

It was a sobering sight for the hundreds of local teens who viewed the scenes this week -- and it was meant to remind them of what can happen when a driver gets behind the wheel drunk or becomes distracted.

Area firefighters, lawmen and EMS workers paired with a Guilford County-based, volunteer group Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person, a group of firefighters that tours high schools to spread the message that decisions made behind the wheel can have life-changing consequences.

They warned local youths about the effects of not only drunken driving, but also inattentive, sober driving, such as texting or joking around with friends while operating a vehicle.

The presentations included tear-jerking testimonials from family members coping with the loss of the their loved ones and harsh imagery of accident scenes.

VIP volunteer and High Point Fire Department Chief Kelly Grooms was one of many officials who addressed the hundreds of students during the presentations.

"It is all about life choices and consequences, no matter what you do, and it does resonate with (the students)," Grooms said. "When you can take 700 kids and hear a pin drop at the end of an assembly, they are paying attention."

He said the young people already know the difference between right and wrong, but it pays to offer a reminder of what can happen after a lapse in judgment.

The officials delivered their message at Goldsboro High School Wednesday and Eastern Wayne High School Thursday. Students from Wayne School of Engineering and Wayne Early Middle College High School attended Wednesday's presentation.

Doug Watkins, 17, a student at Wayne School of Engineering, was one of the many students in attendance.

He said he heard enough to make him change his driving habits.

"I will admit, I have texted before while driving. Now, I have some reservations about that," he said.

Morgan McLaughlin, 16, also of the Wayne School of Engineering, said she also was affected by the presentation.

"The part that got to me the most was the family part. The part about leaving the family behind. I have two brothers and two sisters. And leaving them behind with something to deal with because of my choices, that would kill me. That would be the worst."

Wayne Early Middle College High School student and new driver Joi Body, 16, said she will exercise greater care on the highways.

"Seeing those pictures of the car accidents really made me wake up and realize that I should pay attention on the road. I just got my license, so, it opened up my eyes a little bit," she said. "Whenever I drive, I think I should put my phone in my purse because if it is, like, right there I am going to be able to text and stuff like that so I need to put it away."