Driver safety message driven home

The Grim Reaper paid a visit to Niagara Falls High School on Monday to illustrate a point about driver safety.

A student dressed up like death himself patrolled the scene of a mock traffic accident in the high school’s rear parking lot as part of a program designed to send a message about the dangers of drinking while driving and distracted driving. 

Two vehicles, donated by George Satarian of Satarian Auto Sales, were wrecked without anyone inside to make it look as though they had been in a genuine head-on collision. 

Students played the roles of those involved in the crash, including the distracted driver who caused the accident and the victims who were impacted by her careless use of a cell phone. 

Actual city police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians responded as they would any real accident. 

When the first officer arrived on the scene, he came upon a student playing a distraught driver who lost sight of the road for a few moments, causing her SUV to run head-on into a  car whose driver appeared to be critically injured.

“I looked down at my phone and the car was just there,” she said. 

Members of the school’s senior class gathered in the parking lot to watch the drama unfold. 

Fiza Batool, a member of the senior class who helped organize the fake crash sequence, said the goal is to show high schoolers who will soon be heading off to prom and graduation parties that texting behind the wheel and driving while intoxicated can be dangerous activities that can lead to dire consequences. 

“I think it’s different than just seeing it on paper or seeing it in the statistics,” Batool said. 

Monday’s “crash” was a key event on the first day of a three-day, student-driven safe driving program developed by members of the senior class along with the Niagara Police Athletic League, city public safety crews and the school district. 

On Monday, a group of about 25 senior students joined the group of onlookers, each one wearing face makeup designed to make them look like the walking dead. On their backs were T-shirts with the message: “Every 15 minutes,” a reference to the statistic that every 15 minutes someone dies from an alcohol-related collision.

The “walking dead” actually play their roles throughout the day. They are not allowed to talk, text or telephone anyone for 24 hours. They are asked to write letters to their family members, explaining that they are gone as a result of someone’s careless driving.

During the course of the three-day program, students will receive other reminders about the potential impact of DWI and texting while driving. A presentation on making funeral arrangements will be offered by Lane Funeral Home and students will visit Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to see firsthand how medical personnel deal with accident victims. The students also will receive lessons on safe driving from local law enforcement personnel and Niagara Falls attorney Paul Barr. 

“It’s just another way to show them and help them make a stronger connection to what could happen,” said Anmol Bambrah, another student who helped organize Monday’s crash scene.

Capt. John DeMarco said the accident recreation and related programs were started by Falls high school students several years ago and has since become a prom season tradition. 

In the years since the program began, DeMarco said there has not been an alcohol-related motor vehicle fatality involving any students from the Falls. 

Although the issues of DWI and distracted driving have been highlighted in recent years by several high-profile legal cases, including this month’s ongoing hit-and-run trial of Dr. James Corasanti in Buffalo, DeMarco said he believes it’s a good idea to continue to reinforce the message about being responsible behind the wheel for drivers of all ages.

“If even one of these kids makes the right decision on prom night this will all be worth it,” DeMarco said. 

“Your hope is that they get a message from this and they carry it with them them the rest of their lives,” he added. 

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