High schoolers shown what can happen in car accidents

SUWANEE - Wearing a seat belt might not seem cool, but what can happen to someone who's unbuckled during a car accident is even less cool, Senior Trooper Stephen Black on Wednesday told North Gwinnett High School students.

"Three students have died this year, and I'd be willing to bet two students weren't wearing their seat belts," said Black, who works with the Georgia State Patrol's Safety Education Unit. "Please don't make four, five and six. Don't add to the total."

If remembering students killed in car accidents wasn't enough to convince the high schoolers of the importance of wearing seat belts, the Duluth Police Department left little to the imagination.

The Police Department has a device that simulates what happens to a person not wearing a seat belt when a vehicle rolls over - and the dummy inside the cab rarely remains inside by the end of the demonstration.

Duluth police and the Georgia State Patrol were two of several agencies that gathered on North Gwinnett's football field to talk to students about the importance of safe driving.

Other agencies included the Gwinnett County Fire Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, Gwinnett Medical Center, Emory Flight and Georgia Motor Trucking Association.

A $47,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety allows the Duluth Police Department's Community Oriented Policing Division to bring the expo to 15 high schools throughout Georgia, Officer Liz Strickland said.

"If we save one life from this program, I feel like it's been a success," she said.

North Gwinnett's Student Government Association helped organize the event, escorting social studies classes to and from stations.

One demonstration helped a North Gwinnett senior decide drunken driving is unwise.

"I'm never going to drink and drive," Alan Charach, 18, said. "If I can't concentrate just walking, I can't drive."

At two of the stations, police officers let students wear goggles that impaired the students' vision, making it harder for them to walk in a straight line, balance, pick up an object off the ground or catch a small ball.

Tyler Steumpf, 18, said the demonstrations show reckless driving isn't worth the risk. He said he was especially affected by seeing some of the objects trauma nurses use to treat patients in intensive care, such as a big needle that is inserted into a major vessel to replenish blood lost during an accident.

"It shows you aren't exempt from getting hurt," he said.

Travis Orth, 18, said he's seen the program before but feels its important that others in the school experience the event.

"This is important to a lot freshmen and sophomores who are starting to drive," Orth said. "They don't know what can happen to them."