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Mount Holly, N.J. – A car is upside down in the street, and a teenaged girl is lying beside it. Another car sits in front of the first car, a teenaged boy unconscious on the hood after having gone through the windshield. Broken glass, broken headlights and a random shoe litter the street. A horrific accident scene, but fortunately, it is not real.
This mock crash is an annual pre-prom event at Rancocas Valley Regional High School (RVRHS) to help senior students realize the harsh realities of distracted and drunk driving.
This year’s mock crash was developed and narrated by Officer Deborah Murillo of the Mt. Holly Township Police Department, who serves as the RVRHS school resource officer.
The district annually enlists the help of RVRHS drama students to create a realistic scenario, complete with costumes, dramatic makeup and totaled vehicles courtesy of Tumino’s Towing in Westampton, N.J.
The Mount Holly police and fire departments, the Westampton Fire Department and the America Emergency Squad also donated their time and resources to activate an accurate response to the scene.
Murillo told the students that her worst experience in 12 years as a first responder was “having to tell a parent their child is not coming home.” She said she hopes “students will think twice about drinking and driving, or speak up if they see a friend is making poor choices.”
RVRHS Assistant Principal Anthony Bowker said RVRHS has been conducting the mock crash scenarios for 20 years, because the school believes it plays an important role in bringing awareness to the students. “It is important that the students understand the consequences of one bad choice and what it will mean to their family and other people who might be involved.”
Tad Drummond, a retired assistant prosecutor from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, told students about the ramifications for the intoxicated driver. “In this mock crash,” said Drummond, “one student is dead, several are hurt. The driver could be facing vehicular homicide charges, which could mean up to 10 years in jail. The driver also could be convicted of aggravated manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison.”
Students also heard from physics teacher James Latimer, who lost his nephew Mike in what Latimer called a “stupid driving accident”. Latimer’s nephew was going Christmas shopping with a friend who had just gotten his license. The friend and another friend began to race. “It was a clear, dry, straight road,” explained Latimer, “but the inexperienced driver lost control going around another car, hit the brakes, the car spun around and hit a telephone pole.” Latimer said his nephew died in the arms of a paramedic who happened to be a witness, seven minutes after the accident.
An RVRHS alumna, who lost an uncle when someone drove drunk and hit the car in which he was riding, also addressed students. She spoke of having never had the opportunity to meet her uncle, because he was killed 11 months before she was born. She also implored students to think about driving drunk, distracted, while texting or on the phone. “Imagine your best friend is killed. You can no longer call them, text them, or speak to them again.”
“It is an intense program,” said Murillo, “but if we can reach just one student, it is all worth it.”