On Wednesday, May 23, the LRHS class of 2012 attended the “VIP for a VIP” (Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person) assembly.
The presentation started with a speech from a VIP spokesperson. He said that the goal of the VIP program is to help students understand that they are not invincible. He shared his experiences as a paramedic and talked about what it was like to show up on the scene of a crash and see what happened.
(Link for a slide show of the event)
“Choices and consequences,” he said. This short and simple phrase says that the choices are yours (as the driver), but the consequences are everyone elses. He continued to repeat this throughout the morning.
A man from the fire department spoke next. “Our job is to secure the scene. It’s devastating, but we do what we have to do,” he said. He explained that he became a part of fire services when he was the first to arrive on the scene of an accident where six of his closest friends had crashed. None of them made it.
He finished his speech by saying, “My advice to you is to pay attention and encourage your friends to be safe on the roads.”
Up next was a local police officer. ‘I’m the blue lights behind you,” he said, getting a laugh out of the crowd. “I may have even seen some of you before, so it’s nice to see you again!” But the topic of the morning was no laughing matter. Part of his job is to do funeral escorts and he said that he has had to do many for teenagers. “I absolutely despise it,” he said. “I’m not just the guy who gives you tickets. I may cost you a few dollars, but I’d rather be that guy than the blue lights in front of you escorting you to your resting place.”
The next person to speak was a paramedic. “We’re the ones who have to climb into the car and look at that person face to face,” he said. He has two kids of his own, so he said it is especially hard to see the other teens and think of his own. “Accidents don’t have to happen; whether or not they do happen is up to you.”
A North Carolina State Trooper spoke next. “We go to peoples’ houses and have to knock on their door and have to break the news.” He shared that he had to do this for four LRHS students a few years back. They were drag racing and crashed. Unfortunately, they all passed away. “Possession of a license is not a right, it’s a privilege.”
The last person to speak was a woman by the name of Susie Simmons. Her son Justin passed away on April 30, 2010, just three weeks before graduation. He and three of his friends went to lunch one day; none of them were wearing seatbelts. The driver lost control and crashed just a few hundred feet from the school. The car flipped multiple times and eventually ejected Justin from the car. The car then landed on top of Justin, killing him instantly. The driver passed away the next day. “This is not real, this can’t be happening; that was my first thought. You don’t think it can happen to you, but it can. Please take everything you hear to heart,” she said.
The VIP spokesperson shared a story about a teenager, Troy McNeil. On November 14, 1999, Troy crashed near his house. He had been drinking and driving. He did not survive the accident. The VIP spokesperson shared a few words that Troy’s father had said. They brought in an empty chair that would be seated at any dinner table. “This is what Troy’s father has to look at every time he sits down to eat a meal. No Troy. Troy will never sit across from his father again.” Then they brought in a body bag. This was a very powerful statement and by the many gasps heard throughout the auditorium, it seemed as though the crowd took it very seriously.
Not even a month ago, a 17 year-old girl, Alex Tweety, died in a car wreck. After checking the times of her text messages, law enforcement concluded that texting and driving was the cause of her accident. “Texts aren’t more important than your life,” said the VIP spokesperson. “Just wait to send them until you are stopped.”
These stories were followed by a music video “How Could This Happen to Me.” This video is used in many Driver’s Education classes and driving safety presentations. It was an extremely powerful and moving video of a car accident caused by a drunk driver. By the sounds of things, the majority of the auditorium was in tears.
I believe that this presentation was successful in reaching the seniors of Leesville Road High School. After speaking with many of those seniors who attended, the majority said it made them think twice about the decisions they have been making. Many of the students even tweeted and wrote on Facebook about the memorable presentation.