|One of the student actors is put through the car's windshield.|
That was cool.
Because while some might think such displays are too graphic, I think they can never be graphic enough.
When I was in high school, my mother was killed in a car that a 17-year-old boy had driven into the path of a semi-truck. Overnight, the “Hamburger Highway” films we had been giggling at in Driver’s Ed went from silly to unwatchable. But just for me, not for my classmates.
So as I stood next to hundreds of teenagers watching a staged DUI crash last week, many of them laughing as I once did at carnage we knew wasn’t real, I couldn’t help thinking that no amount of fake blood or fellow teenagers writhing in pretend pain could come close to having the impact needed.
Unless you’re in a crash yourself, or you visit an accident scene to find your mother’s shoe on the side of the road, I’m not sure what other visuals could bore the tunnels of pain necessary to keep anyone, let alone teenagers, from making stupid decisions behind the wheel.
Because only six months after seeing the twisted metal that crushed my mother’s legs, I too felt the rush of freedom and power that comes from driving as soon as I got my license. I had it maybe a month before I got pulled over. All it took was two friends in the car and the radio blasting for me to start acting stupid.
But as futile as most attempts to make teenagers grasp the dangers of driving will be, I fully support all of them. Just please make them as shocking and painful as possible, because only those will have a real chance of making a difference.
Such as one aspect of the events staged at Ukiah High School I think might have the necessary impact. It won’t be the wounds oozing food coloring or the boy sprawled on the hood after crashing through the windshield. It won’t even be the boy who gets handcuffed by a California Highway Patrol officer because he was drunk while crashing into another carload of teens, killing two of them.
No, it will be the letters shared between some children and their parents after their deaths.
Twenty-four Ukiah High kids will have “died” after the fake crash when the Grim Reaper pulls them out of their classrooms and their lives for 24 hours. They will make their own tombstones and exchange good-bye letters with their parents.
And those letters might actually make a difference. If their parents can make them understand what a hole they will leave behind, how the adults will grieve for the years they expected to watch their children grow into adults themselves, that might be heartbreaking enough to make some of those children take the responsibility of driving a little more seriously.
And then if they look at all of the other faces in their car and imagine those children’s parents waiting for them to come home as well, maybe they’ll take it even more seriously.
So I say bring on the fake horror. If it saves just one person from the real horror of a fatal crash, it will be worth it.