Vehicle Injury Protection Program for a Very Important Person (VIP for a VIP) – a distracted driving prevention program that Leesville Road High School arranges annually – took place on March 27, 2018. Seniors attend the two sessions that took place during second and fourth period. “The purpose of the VIP presentation is to provide students with important information related to making safe driving choices. The presentation is very serious and important but does contain very dramatic reenactments of car crashes and the impact these crashes have on others.” (Leesville document)
Highway Patrol Officer –
Wildlife Officer –
Ticketing Officer –
During second period, the senior class all joined together in the auditorium for the first half of the VIP for a VIP program. As students piled in, Tim McGraw’s music video “Highway Don’t Care”, featuring Taylor Swift, played. The assembly began with a speech about choices, and how everyone makes the choice to safely or recklessly drive everyday, and how that choice can be life changing for more than just you. Speakers went down the line, telling their story about why they care. At first, it was simply “Don’t recklessly drive, we want you to come home safely,” from all of the officers.
Towards the end, the mood shifted. After talking about his job having to knock on doors and tell parents that their child was in a crash and didn’t make it, the highway patrol officer used the phrase, “Will your door be next?”. A mother, whose two children died on their way to one of the boys graduation because of weather conditions told her story, tearing up as she did so. A couple videos were displayed providing the classic don’t text and drive message, and then a mirage of photos of crash scenes and photos of students who died was played while The Band Perry “If I Died Young” played over the speakers. It was an emotional and eye-opening experience for many of those participating and in the audience.
During the second session, students were lead outside to bleachers in the parking lot where they witnessed a first account “crash site.” VIP included a crash stimulation of a teen crashing into a light pole. The demonstration featured real police, sirens, sounds, smell and emergency responders which made the simulation feel real.
The actor that portrayed the teen victims mom pulled the heartstrings out of viewers. After the simulation was over, she stated, “Think about how your mom would feel to get that unbearable phone call from the police saying the next victim is you. Think about how she would feel driving to see what she thinks is the impossible, her dead child. Think about your mom, dad or loved one and think about how they would feel about losing you over something that is preventable. Think about how you can help to save your life, as well as your mom’s or dad’s.”
After the “mom” spoke, the crowd went silent. The once “rebellious teenagers” that wished to defy their parents in every way possible, were at a loss for words. Not many were crying or shedding tears over this paternal plea, but were pondering over the thought of their parents crying for help as they approach the scene of their child’s death.
The recent loss within the Leesville community in the past year made this year’s presentation a sincere reality for all those watching. With the vast amount of lives lost within the Leesville community and the recent publicity LRHS has received for drug related issues, the VIP seemed to be a cry for help. Dr. Mutillo surfaced the subject of loss in the community and told students to, “use the loss as a subject for change.
The goal of VIP was to allow students to understand the probability of a preventable, untimely death. The message was delivered and was felt among the bleachers of heartbroken students.
While the two sessions did not attract major reactions, a lot of students walked out with tears swelling in their eyes. Some students were hit by the question of how their mothers, fathers, and siblings would feel when that highway patrol officer shows up to their door. Others teared up at the horror of the staged accident, realizing that the crash could be them. Some cried at the lost lives of the people on the screen, realizing how much potential they would never live up to: their graduation, college, a wedding. Some were affected by the speeches given: the testimonial from the mother during the assembly, or even the speech the actress portraying the mother in the crash simulation.
Each individual was affected in different ways, and some were not affected at all, but one thing is for sure: most of the students walked out of the auditorium and off of the parking lot with a changed perspective on their distracted driving habits.