Teens throughout the county are getting a heavy dose of reality leading into prom season.
And the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, along with other emergency response agencies, is dishing it out.
On Monday, the Sheriff’s Office began its annual “Fatal Vision” program at the area’s high schools.
The program’s goal is to inform students of the dangers of impaired driving, including drunken driving.
But this is no ordinary lecture.
Students pack school stadiums and parking lots and are witness to an elaborate crash scene re-enactment, complete with a Life-Flight helicopter evacuation and a filled body bag.
“I think the program was good because it’s a wake-up call for everyone that they need to watch out on prom night and just to be safe because this can actually happen,” said Katelyn White, a junior at Chestatee High School.
A handful of high school students were selected as actors in the re-enactment, which was based around a head-on crash involving a drunken driver.
One student, as a consequence, left the scene in a body bag. Another was transported away in a helicopter.
“I know what it feels like to be in a wreck,” said Taylor Eberhart, a senior at Chestatee who played the “dead girl.” “I know what it feels like to have your life flash before your eyes and it’s really scary. I know it can cause a ton of people pain and I don’t want that to happen for any of us here, or anywhere really.”
According to the national Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than 33 percent of teen fatalities.
In 2009, eight teens, ages 16 to 19, died every day from motor vehicle crashes.
John Hatch, a senior at Chestatee, knows this firsthand.
One of his friends recently died in a car crash.
“I hated going through it and I’m still trying to get over it, so it means a lot to try and warn people that this can happen,” said Hatch. “I know it can.”
The idea behind the program is to keep teens safe behind the wheel, especially during prom night. Maybe, Hatch says, some will take it to heart.
“It may seem cheesy to a lot of people — I know it does,” he said. “But for the some people that it does touch, those are the ones that it helps the most.”
Chestatee’s prom is on Saturday and administrators say the program was perfect timing.
“It’s a perfect week for us,” said Stan Williams, Chestatee vice principal. “We want our juniors and seniors to come away from prom on Saturday night and still be with their families Sunday morning. I think this is a great thing they’re doing.”
While some teens may have missed the message, some of their peers say it is important to understand the severity of a situation like this.
“You have to take it pretty seriously,” said Cole Morgan, a Chestatee senior. “It’s a scary thought thinking that’s what could really happen to any of us.”
The program will go to Flowery Branch High School today and Johnson High School and Gainesville High School on Monday and Tuesday.