In recognition of this celebratory and potentially dangerous time of year (prom and graduation season), Connecting Youth in Champlain Valley School District has held student and community awareness activities across the district throughout the month of April. These events culminated in the bi-annual Mock Crash demonstration held on Tuesday, May 8, at Champlain Valley Union High School.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2016, 1,908 drivers in that age range died in motor vehicle crashes. Twenty-five percent of these drivers had alcohol in their systems. The majority of them were not wearing seat belts (NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts, 2016.) In addition to fatalities, alcohol use is linked to physical violence, sexual assault, house fires and a host of other issues.

Central Service Towing and Recovery donated two previously crashed cars that were used to set the stage for the mock crash. Four student and two staff volunteers were made up to look like crash victims, using moulage stage makeup, applied by student Emma Flore. All of the volunteer actors were mic’d and took their places in the crash scene as their classmates exited the school and viewed the crash scene. The students’ vehicle was “driven” by junior Brayden Bartlett from Williston. His front seat passenger Shea Dunlop, a senior from Hinesburg, was strewn across the hood of the vehicle as if ejected through the windshield. In the back seat sophomore Clayton Thorpe and senior Lucy Mathews, both Hinesburg residents, also portrayed injured accident victims. The other vehicle was “driven” by volunteer actor and science teacher John Ellison, and his passenger was Rahn Fleming, Director of the CVU Learning Center, who was also “injured.” CVU juniors and seniors were escorted to the hill in front of the school to witness the results of the mock accident. 

Approximately 600 CVU juniors and seniors looked on in silence, taking in the scene. As they did, more than 40 emergency services personnel from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston started arriving on the scene, sirens blaring. As they arrived, fire and rescue personnel went to work extricating “injured” students from the car. As the emergency response to the crash unfolded, Chief Frank Koss narrated the action and early on pronounced senior Shea Dunlop “dead at the scene.” While Fleming was transported from the scene in an ambulance, Thorpe and Mathews communicated with the emergency personnel from the back seat of the car as they were covered with a tarp to keep them safe during the extrication process. The back seat windows were smashed before emergency responders utilized the Jaws of Life to cut off the top of the car to make extracting the student actors possible. The students were transported from the scene in ambulances while Shea Dunlop remained covered by a white sheet for the duration of the demonstration. As the mock crash came to a close, student actor Brayden Bartlett was taken through a series of field sobriety tests and arrested for “driving while intoxicated, death resulting.” Bartlett was put in handcuffs and taken from the scene in a Shelburne Police cruiser. 

Principal Adam Bunting spoke with students about the scene that they witnessed and asked them, “What promise will you make after seeing the mock crash?” Student responses included: “I will not drink and drive.” “I will think about how my decisions will affect other people’s safety, as well as my own.” “I commit to keeping my friends safe by encouraging good choices and being a model for healthy behavior.”

CY–Connecting Youth is a community-based organization whose mission is to promote a culture that develops in our youth the power and conviction to make healthy choices. Our primary purpose is to encourage a “no-use” community norm around alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by young people. Operating out of the Champlain Valley School District, CY serves the communities of Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne and Williston and is located online and on Facebook.