Wednesday, March 27, 2013
It may have been their first rodeo, and for the sake of all drivers, hopefully a memorable one.
Goose Creek High School students got behind the wheel of two golf carts and attempted to drive a course through cones while texting on one and driving with “drunk goggles” on the other.
They ran over traffic cones outlining the parameters of the obstacle courses, often going off course, laughing at their peers, and looking frightened.
The cones on the snaking courses represented people or trees, Bud Green of Charleston County EMS told students. “I’ve seen tractor trailers hit trees,” Green said. “Trees don’t move.”
He said the goggles only impair vision but not judgment.
That was the scene of the DUI Rodeo held at GCHS on March 14. About 700 students participated.
Several local public safety agencies made an appearance at the annual event that lines up with spring break and prom season to encourage students not to drink and drive. The graphically visual demonstrations of the dangers of drinking, drug usage, and texting while driving attempt to teach students what not to do.
Trident Medical Center sponsored the DUI Rodeo in collaboration with the High School Injury Prevention Coalition (HSIPC).
The stations consist of Charleston County EMS, Berkeley County EMS, Goose Creek Rural Fire Department, South Carolina Highway Patrol, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office HEAT Team, Trident Medical Center Nursing/American Heritage Ambulance as well as representatives from MUSC and Roper St. Francis.
“All do some sort of injury prevention,” HSIPC President Carl Fehr said. “With all these agencies out here it’s a broad message. With everybody working together it does so much good.
“We don’t condone underage drinking, but stress to students if they are in that situation that parents would rather get a call from a child who says they can’t drive than for us to show up telling them their loved one has died.”
Fehr said a big part of the event is helping students understand they are not invincible.
Fehr also works for Charleston County EMS when he’s not helping educate students through HSPIC, his non-profit that sends guest speakers to classrooms and assemblies throughout the year. “We’ve seen too much tragedy on the front end,” Fehr said. “We never want to see that kind of tragedy again.
“People don’t realize how poorly they do driving while on their phones because they’re paying attention to their phone.”
While the texting and driving golf cart at the rodeo is only going 3 mph, students still have to stop or go entirely off course nearly every single time. On the highway motorists travel much faster, Fehr said.
“It’s a powerful thing,” he said. “It takes so much concentration to send a text.”
“The kids get so much out of this,” Trident Hospital Trauma Registrar Vicki Ellis said. “If it just helps one kid it’s worthwhile.”
She relayed a story of one student questioning why anyone would drive in that state. The student could not take one step while attempting to walk a straight line with the goggles on.
Trident ER Director David Mizzell said the impact of the stories EMS workers told students were eye-opening.
“The visual is the biggest part of this,” Mizzell said, adding that the hands-on physical interaction really hits home for students.