PORTSMOUTH — Proms are a sparkling event full of fun and excitement, but in some cases can end in tragedy from drinking and driving, or any other distractions. To avoid a tragic end to prom Portsmouth High School (PHS)hosted the annual Prom Promise event on Friday.
The Waller Street side of PHS was loaded with juniors and seniors who had the opportunity view something that will make them think. Members of Portsmouth Fire Department, student actors, and Portsmouth Police and Portsmouth Ohio State Highway Patrol out of Lucasville were present to act out a tragic mock crash in which in many cases nationwide, end in the loss of lives.
Heather Harcha, school nurse at PHS, and coordinator of the eye-opening event said Prom Promise is important for students to experience.
“With prom coming up, something such as these is extremely important for our students,” Harcha said. “I think that realistic exposure really hits home for our students who may have the mindset that a tragedy such as this mock crash that they observed could never happen to them. The reality of it is that drinking, texting, or any type of distraction can cause someone to be tragically killed, or experience a horrendous injury.”
Fire Trucks were present, two vehicles that hit head on, in which a student was actually rescued by first responders and fire fighters. The helicopter flying away, left the impression of the injured student being life-flighted as a result of the mock crash.
Sergeant John Howard, of Ohio State Highway Patrol in Lucasville, said gaining information and insight about drinking and driving can be very powerful.
“I believe knowledge is power, and I believe that many people go through life thinking that it won’t happen to me, but when people hear from me, that yes it can. Let me tell you about all of the fatalities that I see,” Howard said. “Or the number of people that I see that lose their lives because of bad decisions.”
Beyond talking with the students about abstaining from drinking and driving, Howard encouraged the students to set goals for themselves, to stay away from drugs, negative associations, and seek out guidance for problems that may arise in their lives.
“WIth the mock crash, it is realistic. You see someone in a body bag, and the students get to see that,” Howard said. It may not be real, but they imagine the reality of it. I believe that it makes an impact on the students. I don’t see them sitting here falling asleep, but fully engaged. They are listening, they are attentive. Their facial expressions, body language and such let’s me know that they are listening.”
Dinia Smith, a senior at PHS, said Prom Promise helps students to realize the dangers of driving intoxicated.
“I think that Prom Promise helps make situations like that real for the students,” Smith said. “It makes them realize how serious and dangerous it could be to drive under the influence.”
Howard said there were no prom related fatalities last year, but there were 13 fatalities in Scioto County, and 66 percent the crashes last year were unrestrained, failing to utilize seat belts.
After the completion of Howard’s talk with the students inside at in the school cafetorium, students came to him and signed up to be an “Ambassador,” and have their names recorded as individuals that pledged to abstain from participating in any type drinking and driving during the prom time.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.