Somerset's Operation Prom tackles textingText messaging and distracted driving are becoming such a major issue that they have surpassed drunken driving as the top cause of car accidents involving teenage drivers. So when Operation Prom 2012 was planned at Somerset High School, organizers veered away from the traditional focus of drunk driving.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Text messaging and distracted driving are becoming such a major issue that they have surpassed drunken driving as the top cause of car accidents involving teenage drivers.
So when Operation Prom 2012 was planned at Somerset High School, organizers veered away from the traditional focus of drunk driving. Instead, they took on the subject of distracted driving head-on.
Operation Prom is sponsored by the high school STAND (Students Taking Action in a New Direction) organization.
“The students thought that it was something every member of the student body could relate to,” said STAND advisor Patti Schachtner, the high school health care provider.
Operation Prom is a staged accident, with student-actors acting as the persons involved in the crash. The accident portrayed a head-on collision caused by a young driver who was text messaging while driving. The aftermath of the fatal accident shows not only the emotion of those involved, but the number of people required to rescue and care for the injured and those with the difficult duty of dealing with the deceased.
Approximately 150 people watched the staged accident from the hillside in front of the high school.
STAND members prepared for the event by doing a visual survey of drivers entering the school property the morning of April 17. Of the 503 cars that entered the grounds, they found a significant number of people who weren’t wearing seatbelts. Twenty-eight percent of the males in vehicles weren’t belted in, while 16 percent of the females weren’t wearing seatbelts. Schachtner said this information was forwarded to school administration and the school district police liaison officer.
“There was one car with six unbelted people,” Schachtner said. “All of those people are missiles if that car is in an accident.”
Schachtner said that, in discussions with students, she heard that parents are often a reason why students are texting or talking on the phone while driving. The students said that parents want an immediate response when they call or text a student they know is on the road.
“Parents need to be educated too. We need to practice what we preach,” Schachtner said, saying parents need to show patience when they know their children are behind the wheel.
It takes a great deal of cooperation to pull together Operation Prom. Among the organizations that helped with this year’s event were Life Link III, Somerset Fire and Rescue, the Somerset Police Department, the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department, Somerset Auto Salvage, the St. Croix County Medical Examiner’s Office and O’Connell Funeral Home.