Photo Gallery | Simulated drunken-driving crash at Mount Everett High School
SHEFFIELD — The 1991 Oldsmobile Sierra — blue and in need of a paint job — cruised north through the parking lot at Mount Everett Regional School on Thursday afternoon.
Then — boom! A concussive crash with a concrete barrier. The vehicle was traveling only about 35 miles an hour, according to Sheffield Fire Chief Brent Getchell. But the impact shattered the front of the car and shoved a portion of the heavy barrier back a few feet.
It was, no pun intended, a sobering moment. Some of the 100 or so students who were watching took cellphone photos of the crash. One young girl gasped.
The "crash" was fake. It was staged by the Sheffield Fire Department. The car did not have a driver. Following the crash, two local actors who volunteered their time acted as "victims." One had a number of false injuries. Firefighters and police cut him out of the car using the Jaws of Life.
The other young man, who was supposedly drunk, was given a sobriety test by a police officer. He failed and was cuffed and put into a Sheffield police car.
The exhibition was for the benefit of Mount Everett students who might be attending Friday night's prom. The intent, said Getchell, was to give students an idea of the potential consequences of drinking and driving. Not only a car crash, but the possibility of arrest following it, he said.
Taylor Getchell, the chief's daughter and a firefighter herself, came up with the idea and presented it to the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee a few weeks ago. They approved it.
The car was donated by the Mielke junkyard in town. The concrete barriers came from County Concrete, another Sheffield business. Joe Wilkinson Excavating moved the barriers to the school parking lot at no cost, according to Taylor Getchell.
The question, of course, is whether it will induce prom-going students to think about the consequences of drinking and driving. There hasn't been an accident in Sheffield for a few years, but other area schools have endured them.
Mount Everett Principal Glenn DeVoti believes there is some benefit.
"I hope so," he said. "I hope so. It only has to reach one or two kids, as long as they're the right ones.
"Our community has seen too many of these kinds of crashes," he said. "One is too many, actually."
The event was sponsored by Students Against Destructive Decisions, which used to be known as Students Against Drunk Driving. These days, more students drive under the influence of various drugs besides alcohol.
Sarah Beckwith, 16, a sophomore at Mount Everett and a member of SADD, agreed with DeVoti.
"I would hope it helps," she said. "There are too many people in the community who have been killed or badly injured in a drunk-driving accident."
"I think what people don't understand is that accidents like these don't just affect the people who are involved with them," said senior Ava Garrett, 17. "Family, friends and relatives are all impacted. It's really horrible for a lot more than just the people that are in the accident."
Both students agreed that SADD has had a major impact in the decrease in post-prom accidents. The group sponsors a post-prom party from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The event features games and food, and the gym doors are locked, so that students can't leave.
"It's a lot of fun," said Garrett. "People really enjoy it."
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.