Thursday, May 10th, 2018 St. Stephens Fire Department assisted with organizing and participated in a distracted driving presentation at St. Stephens School. This event focused on drinking and driving and was demonstrated to the entire junior and senior student body. This educational event was demonstrated just before the Prom scheduled for Saturday. The event was also put together due to the month of May being recognized as Global Youth Traffic Safety Month.
Global youth traffic safety month brings safety advocates together every May to focus on the prevention of vehicle crashes, which is the number one cause of death for teens. Twenty-five percent of these crashes involve an underage drinking driver. It has been reported that half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before graduating from High School and teen drivers are 1.5 times more likely to be involved in a crash than adults.
It is Prom season for High School students across North Carolina, therefore, teens across the state will be getting ready for prom by making plans with friends and significant others. Prom night is intended to be exciting for students and to be an event to make good memories that will last a lifetime. One bad decision to drink and drive can cause those memories to be bad and haunt you for a lifetime and come with many consequences.
Although teens are not allowed to purchase alcohol in North Carolina, drinking-driving-and prom nights are words that often coincide in teens minds. Six percent of students surveyed in a recent study reported that they had driven under the influence of alcohol on prom night, yet nine out of ten teens believe that their peers are likely to drink and drive on prom night.
There are around 2.4 million incidents of teenage intoxicated driving every month across the United States. Twenty percent of teenagers involved in fatal car accidents had been drinking and nearly fifteen percent of high school students admit to drinking and driving. Prom night drinking and driving in North Carolina puts teens at risk of injuries in a car accident and it also puts others at risk who shares the road. Impairment begins with the first drink.
The United States has saw a significant reduction in alcohol-involved crashed among the teen population by lowering the legal driving blood alcohol concentration, (BAC), limit to 0.08 and increasing the minimum legal drinking age to 21 and instituting educational campaigns about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Even with the changes, drivers with blood alcohol concentrations at or above 0.08 have remained involved in one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States. That averages to about 10,000 lives lost every year. Drinking and driving is the number two cause of teen fatalities involving a car crash with the leading cause reported as distracted driving involving cell phones.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, teen drivers killed with blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher are as follows;
- Age 15 8%
- Age 16 8%
- Age 17 18%
- Age 18 19%
- Age 19 24%
- Age20 28
In 2017, Catawba County had a documented 1,099 car crashes involving teens and drinking, 13 fatalities, and 539 injuries.
Ninety-four percent of middle school students and high school students in North Carolina believe that underage drinking is a problem, while more than half described it as a big problem. The average age at which a North Carolina teen consumes their first drink of alcohol is at the age of 14. It is documented that North Carolina looses at least one person per week due to underage drinking. North Carolina has a zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving. Making this terrible decision may change your life or the lives of your friends and families forever. Penalties include but are not limited to the following;
- Minimum punishment may include fines up to $200.00 and jail time for 24hours – 60 days. 24 hour community service and no license for 30 days and an increase
of insurance premiums.
- Maximum punishment may include a fine up to $4,000.00 and possible jail time of 30 days - 2 years. Suspension or loss of drivers’ license, a required substance
abuse assessment, and a completed substance abuse program.
- Other fines that may be associated include court cost or medical expenses.
- You or your family may be sued.
- Insurance premiums may increase by 400% over the next three years.
- May be charged with class 2 misdemeanor, death by motor vehicle, manslaughter, murder, or any other related charges that may result in prison time.
- Prevention measures may be installed in your vehicle just to start your vehicle.
- Worse of all is the loss of a life.
The drama skit at St Stephens High School simulated a motor vehicle collision due to drinking and driving. There were a total of four patients involved with the skit that included students from the St. High School Tractor Shed Theater. One of the students played the role of the drunk driver as another student played the role of a deceased patient that was thrown from the vehicle. There were two other students that simulated being injured with one of them being trapped in the vehicle that had to be rescued by responding firefighters and EMS. A total of 580 students and 30 staff members were present for the event. We want to thank Mrs. Rice, from the drama department, (Tractor Shed Theater), at St. Stephens High School for assisting with organizing the event and for providing the students for the skit. The agencies involved with making this drama a success is St. Stephens Fire Department, St. Stephens High School, Catawba County Sheriff’s Department, Catawba County EMS, and A-1 Towing and Recovery. We also want to thank the Hickory Daily Record for covering the event.