BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. - Members of the Governor Livingston High School senior class learned a lot about distracted driving last week, when they witnessed a reenactment of a fatal motor vehicle accident at the high school.
The program, which was held on Wednesday, May 27, was put on through the collaborative efforts of all the Mountainside and Berkeley Heights emergency services - police and fire department and first aid squads - Maria Esteves from the Union Prosecutors Office, the Berkeley Heights Board of Education and Atlantic Ambulance Medivac Helicopter. It was run by Detective Shaun Bendik of the Mountainside Police Department and Bob Segear, the student assistance counselor, at the high school.
Samantha Lloyd, a member of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad and its deputy chief of operations took part in the program. She said she believes "the last time this program was presented to the GL students was 2009 ... We really felt privileged to be part of a very worthwhile program presents to the GL seniors."
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Three members of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad took part in the program - Lloyd, Narkiss Sternberg and Scott Brookes, a 2013 graduate of the high school. Both EMTs from the Mountainside Volunteer Rescue Squad - Cassie Kinney and Elisa Paras - were graduates of the high school.
In a release from the school Segear wrote, "The TREND Club Executive Board Members took active roles in the reenactment by role-playing as drivers and passengers, in the two crash vehicles that brought to the high school by DeFalcos Towing Company.
"The senior class stood and watched as they were told how the accident occurred and then heard the live 911 call. The scenario of the accident that left two dead was created by Mountainside detectives. In one car, there were two people in the car; in the second, three.
In the simulated accident, the designated driver of one car, Tara Nixon, (fictitious name), who was sober, was passed a cell phone by one of her intoxicated passengers. When Tara was responding to the text message, she went through the red traffic light and hit the other car, killing both the driver and passenger," Segear wrote.
The fictional consequences of the simulated two-car accident were, the driver who was texting, Nixon, and her two passengers were injured. The two people in the car that was hit suffered more serious injuries - the passenger was killed instantly, the driver was in critical condition, and later died at the scene of the accident, Lloyd said.
The high school seniors watched as police cars were dispatched and responded in real time. Upon their arrival the police officers assessed the accident examined the victims and radioed for the First Aid Squad and Fire Department.
When members of the First Aid Squad arrived, they began treating the injured and called for the Atlantic Ambulance Medivac Helicopter because of the critical state of two of the crash victims.
The helicopter landed on the ball field, Segear wrote.
Lloyd said the students watched from the beginning, when the mock accident first occurred, and saw how first responders are dispatched and arrive at the scene of an accident. They also saw how EMTs do their work, treating the injured, as needed, and how fire department personnel can use the Jaws of Life to take off the car's roof and remove people. They also heard the helicopter arrive and watched its landing at the ball field. Finally, they saw "the police response, which involved the arrest of the texting driver."
After the driver was "arrested," the senior class was taken to the auditorium, where they heard Maria Esteves, the victim witness advocate from the Union County Prosecutor's Office tell her own family's story. Her eight-year-old daughter and her uncle were hit and killed by an impaired driver while they were crossing the street, on their way to the market.
After Esteve's powerful story, the students watched as a judge sentenced Nixon, the driver who had been texting at the time of the simulated accident, to eight years in prison and took away her right to drive for 10 years. Nixon was handcuffed in the court room and taken to a jail cell.
At the end of the assembly the students were reminded by Segear to enjoy the prom and graduation by being safe and looking out for one another.
Lloyd said throughout the program, "the students watched intently and got to see how quickly things can change when bad choices are made."
Segear wrote, "At the end of the program, many students commented that the program was very powerful and sent a clear message. 'Distracted driving is as deadly as driving while impaired.'"
Video Credits GLTV