Distracted Driving Simulated Accident 'Hits Home' For SPFHS Students, First Responders

Scotch Plains and Fanwood police, fire and EMS works staged a lifelike portrayal of an automobile crash caused by distracted driving for students at SPFHS on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Credits: John Mooney
Students reacted to the realism of the crash scene. Credits: John Mooney
Fanwood police officer Elliott Bernard responds to student-actor Ryan Lopez, who portrayed a crash survivor. Credits: John Mooney
Officer Bernard attends to student-actor Nate Redmount, who portrayed a DOA victim. Credits: John Mooney
Fanwood and Scotch Plains emergency responders treated the scenario as they would in a real-life situation. Credits: John Mooney
Scotch Plains police officer Jason Fiore restrains actor-parent whose child was involved in the crash. Credits: John Mooney
Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo warns high school students about the dangers of distracted driving. Credits: John Mooney
Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley told students about the dangers of the growth of vaping (inhaling cannibus vapor produced by an e-cigarette). Credits: John Mooney
Group photo including actors, first responders, students teachers, Mayor Colleen Mahr, Scotch Plains Township Manager Al Mirabella, and other officials.
Volunteer firefighters responded to the "crash" at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Credits: John Mooney
Scotch Plains Township Manager Al Mirabella, Mayor Al Smith, SPFHS DECA executive VP Catie Currie, Marjorie Fitzgibbon, DECA advisor, and Scotch Plains Sergeant Jerald Brown. Credits: John Mooney

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Distracted driving can emotionally scar anybody’s life. Just ask those involved with Tuesday’s simulation at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.

A chillingly realistic demonstration was put on by the police, paramedic, and fire departments of both Scotch Plains and Fanwood in addition to the school’s DECA club. The purpose of the presentation was to show high school students the horrors that can come while driving distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Students got an up-close-and-personal experience and vivid images of the scary scenes of a fatal accident caused by impaired driving.

“The goal is to teach the kids: Don’t drink and drive with distractions,” Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo told “Every ten minutes in New Jersey, a teen is involved in an accident, and a lot of it attributes to stuff that can be avoided — meaning texting and driving, kids fooling around in the car, and also drunk driving. The message is that there’s consequences for your actions; people get hurt, and people die. You don’t want to be that one responsible for somebody else’s death.”

Sign Up for E-News

Using a donated vehicle ruined in a previous wreck, student and parent actors took on different roles to display all of those affected by such accidents. Portions of Westfield Road were shut down while police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks responded to the scene of a mock accident. In the blink of an eye, sirens encircled the scene just seconds after a mock 911 call was placed. Upon arrival, the passenger, Nathaniel Redmount -- a senior at SPFHS -- was rushed out of the car and paramedics attempted life-saving procedures, while students watched intently.

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching moment arose when “parents” of those involved in the crash rushed onto the scene in a state of hysteria, emotionally distraught upon seeing their “children” in critical medical condition.

Emotions that began fabricated became real for many, defining the simulation’s power.

“This hits home; when you get to be out on the scene, have the parents running up… it’s real,” said Scotch Plains Chief of Police, Ted Conley. “When you see it, there’s a lot that you learn and see just by being there that you wouldn’t get from a classroom. By being on the scene, seeing someone laying there, seeing the response … it really does [mean a lot for students to witness].”

"Once a year, I have to go to someone's house and deliver the bad news of someone's death in an auto accident," said Sergeant Jerald Brown.

To ensure the event was as realistic as possible, police officers and paramedics conducted the exact same procedures that they would in a real accident. The drill was as important to first responders as it was to the students receiving the message.

“I’m immediately thinking, ‘How are the passengers? Can we do anything right now to save anyone?’ Life is number one,” said Fanwood police officer Elliott Bernard, who assisted with on-scene accident response. “I make sure the paramedics are on scene, make sure all hands are on deck and everything’s coordinated and documented. Without a good team coming together, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Nick Route, a student at the high school and member of the rescue team, added: “At first, you don’t really realize [what’s happening] because you’re adrenaline is pumping so much. After the fact, you sort of realize what you just saw.… It’s definitely good to practice, so you’re ready for the real situation.”

Through the host of authentic, powerful images from the day, deeper messages were conveyed: The text message can wait; Uber can be called; Pull over if the phone call must be answered … But never drive if attention is not fully on the road ahead.

Addressed to students through police chiefs of both towns, driving distracted can kill anyone, anywhere, at anytime, no matter what factor accounts for the impairment.

“When this happens every time something goes on, we believe that it happens in other places and it doesn’t happen here,” Chief Trigo said. “It does happen here, and it will continue to happen here unless the message is sent home.”

“If we reach one kid,” he added, “It’s worth it.” is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Scotch Plains/Fanwood

Summer Life Guard Job Opportunity in Union County

April 10, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ - Summer lifeguard positions are available at Union County’s public swimming pool, the Walter Ulrich Memorial Pool at Rahway River Park in Rahway.

“Union County’s Ulrich Pool provides our youth and adult summer job seekers with an opportunity to enjoy working outdoors in the fresh air all summer long while sharpening valuable life skills including leadership, ...

Why We Keep Kosher

Why We Keep Kosher

This week's parshah, Shemini, introduces the Torah's dietary laws. Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves to be kosher, fish need fins and scales, and a list of forbidden fowl is enumerated.

To those of us in Jewish education, it is a continuing source of disappointment that so many Jews still believe the kosher laws to be outdated.

Politics IS Government in Union County

April 21, 2018

Dear Editor:

After Bruce Patterson of Garwood was stopped from speaking at the Union County Freeholder meeting of March 22 regarding the politics behind refusing to give the party line to a sitting Freeholder, I thought this brazen suppression of free speech could not go unanswered.

At the April 19 meeting I answered with these comments.

After ten years of following government in Union ...

Helping Teenagers Deal with Prom Night Stress

April 18, 2018

Prom can be one of the most exciting times for your teenager but at the same time one of the most stressful. 

It can also be very stressful for parents as they prepare themselves to accept that their teenager is graduating and soon going away to school, while planning a weekend away after prom night. Going to the Shore for the weekend or somewhere overnight has become more of the ...

Baseball: Fox's Strong Pitching Leads Union Catholic to Victory over North 13th Street Tech

April 22, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Michael Fox delivered a strong game on the mound and six different players knocked in runs for Union Catholic as the Vikings defeated North 13th Street Tech, 8-4, on Saturday in Scotch Plains.

It's the second victory in three games for the Vikings, who improved to 4-7 on the season.

Fox, a sophomore lefty, struck out 10 and allowed three earned ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, April 23, 3:30 PM

Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains

After School Club for Teens at Scotch Plains ...

Arts & Entertainment Education

Wed, April 25, 4:00 PM

Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains

Speak with Congressional Staff on April 25 at the ...