Contact: Thomas Hottman
More than 1,000 students watched a fictional scenario about the consequences of distracted driving, called Operation Prom Night at the Oregon Institute of Technology's track field. Tanner York, actor in the dramatization, performed a sobriety test for a police officer that Monday morning during the event.
Two mangled cars, students and a teacher covered with fake blood set the scene at Operation Prom Night Monday morning.
More than 1,000 students watched as police cars, fire engines, an ambulance and a helicopter all arrived to rescue victims of a car crash as part of a fictional scenario showing the consequences of distracted driving. Students from EagleRidge, Gilchrist, Klamath Union and Chiloquin high schools watched Operation Prom Night from the bleachers on the track field at Oregon Institute of Technology, as their fellow students played out a staged scene that ended with the fake death of three classmates and one teacher.
Rob Arbini, division chief of operations with Klamath County Fire District 1, said the leading cause of death for teenagers is distracted driving — or driving while drinking, texting or simply not paying attention.
That reality led to over 15 agencies in the Klamath Basin to volunteer and put the scenario together, Arbini said.
"The roleplayers in the scene are their fellow students, their peers, and I think once you start putting a face and a name to it, it hits home a little bit better than just hearing statistics or reading it in the newspaper," Arbini said. "So by seeing their fellow students maybe there's a little better understanding of that, it puts a little bit more realness to (the situation)."
He added that in the U.S. there are an estimated 1,200 vehicle-related injuries per day, and about eight deaths per day due to distracted driving.
"If you drive 55 mph and you look down for 4 seconds, that's equivalent of driving blindfolded over the length of a football field," Arbini said.
Don McCall, who spoke during the re-enactment, said this situation wasn't new to him. When McCall was 18-years old, he was in a drinking-and-driving related car crash. McCall is a survivor of a traumatic brain injury from the crash.
"It's like playing Russian roulette," McCall said, "where you put one bullet in the gun, spin it and see if you're lucky. That day I wasn't. I'm trying to tell you all, drinking and driving is wrong. It will mess up your life."
Tanner York, a senior at KU, played the driver who was drinking and crashed into the other car.
"It feels horrible. I'm never going to drink and drive, I'm never going to get in a car with somebody drinking and driving," York said. "I just hope it affected the students as much as me."
In the fictional scenario, York faced 30 years in prison from four counts of manslaughter and time from each injury caused.
Stacey Holmes, Sky Lakes Medical Center's trauma care coordinator, has been a part of Operation Prom Night since it started in the Klamath Basin seven years ago.
Holmes said that "all of us in this line of work have been in a situation where we've dealt with an unnecessary death of a youth, and so our goal is if this program can prevent one death, it's worth doing it for us."
"The roleplayers in the scene are their fellow students, their peers, and I think once you start putting a face and a name to it, it hits home a little bit better than just hearing statistics or reading it in the newspaper. So by seeing their fellow students maybe there's a little better understanding of that, it puts a little bit more realness to (the situation)."
— Rob Arbini, Klamath County Fire District 1