Monday, Nov. 10, 2014
On a recent morning at George Wythe High School in Richmond, local first responders and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center nurses responded to a deadly car accident in front of the school.
Fortunately, the accident had been staged and the student victims were actors. However, the visuals reflected a convincing accident scene: a violently totaled car, multiple bloodied victims in and outside of the vehicle, and a full response by law enforcement, rescue workers and medical personnel.
Organized by DRIVE SMART Virginia, the graphic scenario showed teenagers the very real outcome of distracted driving — specifically texting and driving. Hundreds of students recently watched this demonstration and similar presentations at two other area high schools.
VCU Police Officer Marvin Wingo and multiple trauma nurses from VCU Medical Center served as responders. The accident scene mirrored the damage that can occur in a texting and driving accident — it had two fatally injured pedestrians and a car full of critically injured passengers.
DRIVE SMART Virginia defines distracted driving as any activity that takes the driver’s eyes off the road. The organization reports that eight out of 10 traffic crashes in Virginia are related to distracted driving.
Wingo assisted other area first responders at the scene of the accident — he helped to delicately remove the student crash victims from the car. Meanwhile, trauma nurses created a makeshift trauma bay in the high school’s gymnasium and worked diligently to save the lives of student victims.
Kathy Richio, a nurse practitioner at VCU Medical Center, gave earnest requests to her teenage audience throughout the presentation.
“I want you to know that this can, and does happen — I see this daily,” Richio said. “This is as close to realistic as you can get. This happens every day.”
For area police and medical staff, the dangerous and deadly practice of distracted driving is something they persistently try to dissuade all motorists from doing. Many of their efforts stem from seeing real accidents and seriously injured victims. Wingo, Richio and others from VCU participated in order to help deter distracted driving by the city’s newest teen drivers.
“It was well worth the time and effort for us to participate, even if we only save one life,” Wingo said after the demonstration.
DRIVE SMART also reports that texting and driving, or checking social media updates on a smartphone while driving, means a driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Checking smartphones in general is a constant habit by teens and college students.
“None of you are exempt,” Richio told the students as she motioned to victims. “If you get on the phone and you’re driving, this can happen to you.”
The VCU Police Department urges VCU students to avoid distracted driving through a series of activities and other efforts. In 2013, two officers created a “Text Later Live Longer” (TL3) bumper sticker campaign to encourage the community to stop texting while driving.
The demonstrations were also an outreach component of Project IMPACT (Impacting Minors’ Perceptions and Cognizant Attitudes toward Trauma), an initiative under VCU Medical Center’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program.
The collaborative and interdisciplinary Project IMPACT team works to reduce and prevent unintentional injuries by educating students and raising awareness of the trauma associated with risk-taking behaviors.
Also participating in the exercise were staff from VCU Life Evac 1, the Richmond Fire Department, Richmond Police Department and Richmond Ambulance Authority.
At the end of the exercise at George Wythe High School multiple student actors were declared “dead” by trauma nurses as the teen audience looked on.
Death and serious injury are a grim reality for victims of distracted driving accidents, and Richio and area responders wanted students to take the presentation to heart.
Looking toward students who were declared “dead,” Richio made a sincere request to the students in attendance at George Wythe.
“Think about this before getting in a car with a distracted driver — before picking up the phone and typing L-O-L,” she said. “The decision that you make affects everybody.”
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