BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston seniors were given a lesson on how quickly one bad decision can impact your life through a simulation of a fatal car crash on campus caused by distracted driving while texting.
"The reason we do presentations like this is because, unfortunately, accidents do happen, and tragedies do happen," said Gov. Livingston senior Killian Quinn, President of T.R.E.N.D. "As members of T.R.E.N.D., all of the administrators and teachers -- from the bottom of our hearts -- we do not want it to happen to you," he said to his classmates at a presentation. " We like to have a good time, [but] we have to be safe."
The Gov. Livingston T.R.E.N.D. club facilitated the event in conjunction with the Berkeley Heights and Mountainside Police Departments' resource officers Ed Gaffney and Shaun Bendik. The event is funded by the Berkeley Heights and Mountainside Municipal Alliances.
The scene was set with a car crash along Highlander Way with air bags inflated. Mountainside Detective Bendik walked through the accurate portrayal from the 9-1-1 call through the actual time it takes for proper resources to get to the accident scene and perform their life saving actions. The actions included the Berkeley Heights Fire Department extracting the students from the car with the Jaws of Life, while the Berkeley Heights and Mountainside Rescue Squad EMTs provided care to the students inside the car and curbside while waiting for the Atlantic Health Medivac Helicopter to arrive to the scene for the critical student.
"We did this today because we want to protect you all," said Berkeley Heights Detective Trent Fettes --- "Be smart out there -- remember every action has a reaction -- put your phones down while driving."
"Distracted driving goes beyond simply texting and driving. Did you know that the leading cause of distracted driving crashes happen when teens are interacting with other passengers? Other factors of distracted driving include cell phone use, looking at something inside or outside of the vehicle, moving to music, grooming, and reaching for an object," said the SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) website.
With two friends dead, the driver faced the judge and was sentenced for this second degree crime which carries a prison time of five to 10 years and upto $100,000 fine.
"New Jersey is a zero tolerance state," said George Pizzo, the father of Amber Pizzo [who tragically was killed by a drunk driver in 2005]. "If you are in a crash that someone is killed, you will go to prison."
Pizzo spoke to the GL students to tell the story of his daughter, a 1997 GLHS graduate. "On the night of July 16, 2005 my daughter was rushed down the corridors of Morristown Memorial Hospital. That night she became a statistic, one of those pedestrians that are killed each year by a drunk driver. For us it was all too real."
"My daughter's death had to mean something instead of a meaningless statistic," said Pizzo. "That's why I'm here today. These deaths are avoidable -- they do not have to happen. It's a matter of choice. The choices we make determine the outcome of our lives. Please, do not make your life be determined by one bad decision."
Pizzo described his experience after visiting inmates who were incarcerated due to vehicular homicide. "Among those inmates were students -- of 26,000 people sitting in New Jersey jails, there are an incredible number of students -- [who] never intended to hurt anyone -- they are just going out to have fun with their friends -- and their life ends in tragedy."
"Your possibilities are wide open, but you have to realize the choices you make have consequences. The decisions you make will either widen your opportunities or limit your opportunities," said Pizzo.
As the seniors head into prom and graduation season, it is the hope that this message of severe consequences to bad choices while driving distracted or intoxicated will resonate and students will make safe decisions.
T.R.E.N.D. (Turning Recreation Events into New Directions) Club promotes a drug and alcohol free life style by offering fun and exciting activities to the student body. Student Assistance Counselor and T.R.E.N.D. Club advisor Bob Segear continues to educate students of the pitfalls and dangers of certain things that are out there through Drug and Alcohol awareness programs.
"I am involved with several pro-active programs that promote a drug and alcohol free life style, the GLHS T.R.E.N.D. Club and Guitar Club. Both programs give me an opportunity to interact with our students in a positive environment and all of our events provide excellent examples of enjoying a drug and alcohol free life style during their high school years." -- Bob Segear
Joe Voorhees and GLTV Crew were on scene to film the event to be available on GLTV.