Collinsville Police Chief Steve Evans rides with a student driving a golf cart while wearing drunk simulation goggles.
By Brandon Wells, Reporter
Collinsville High School students were given a graphic display of the consequences of distracted and drunk driving last Thursday for Teen Driving Safety Week.
The event was sponsored by the Collinsville Maryville Caseyville Rotary Club and involved firefighter/paramedics from Stay Alive from Education who travel around the world to present the topic of driving safety and the Collinsville Police Department.
Natalie Brown, a S.A.F.E. presenter of Street Smart of over ten years, said she got involved with this program to make a difference due to her job as a firefighter paramedic.
“If I can do something to make a difference, then this is my kind of thing,” Brown said. “I’m a firefighter/paramedic and I’ve been it for many years, so to be able to prevent things from what I see happen was priceless to me.”
S.A.F.E. is based in Florida and sends presenters all over the world to speak to different groups of people. Brown said her last visit before Collinsville was in the U.K., but that she has been all over the country and abroad to places like Japan.
Due to her duty as a presenter, Brown said she keeps up her job as an active firefighter/paramedic at home in Florida. She works 24-hour shifts about nine days a month.
Collinsville Police Chief Steve Evans was also present for the presentation and represented both the police department and the rotary club as the chairman of the event.
“This event kind of satisfies a couple passions for me: A passion for service through the rotary and a passion for public safety for my job,” Evans said.
Evans said in his 37 years as an officer, he has seen a lot of the different types of tragedies discussed at the event.
“Any of my peers that are in public safety [and] first responders specifically — we’ve all seen a number of traffic crashes and over time a number of horrific and tragic traffic crashes,” Evans said. “The factors that are pretty much present in all those, either one or several factors, are going to be impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding and/or the lack of wearing a seatbelt.”
As a member of the community and a police officer, Evans said he sees the impact that tragic crashes can have firsthand.
“When tragic accidents happen, in the case of a fatal accident, someone loses their life (and) they impact a family (and) they tend to impact a whole community, they tend to tear things apart,” Evans said. “To me, the reason I’m involved is to try to keep those things from happening. If we can make an impact on one kid or a couple kids and change that course, that’s the reason we do this.”
Jesus Estrada, a junior at Collinsville High School, said he learned a lot about the different things that could happen in just one night from simple mistakes. Due to the presentation’s seriousness, the graphic images were something Estrada said also stood out.
“The pictures from the accidents and injuries and death pictures [stood out],” Estrada said.
Along with the primary presentation in which all student groups were present, the day also included a presentation about motorcycle safety and group stations where students were allowed to drive golf carts and pedal-powered four wheelers while wearing drunk simulation goggles.
Julie Hazzard, a driver’s education instructor at Collinsville High School, said events like this help her classes be able to see what’s taught in the classroom firsthand. She said it also helps to provide examples in class that come from what they learned.
“By having workshops that show them what can go wrong in an accident and that they can actually do some of the things that they wouldn’t get to do in a classroom setting with us allows them to have a greater understanding of the impact and how important driving is and making good decisions while driving is,” Hazzard said.
Hazzard said she heard a lot of what the students were talking about during presentations and feels that it had the desired effect on them.
“They were kind of in awe at some of the things that they saw and I also think that they were impacted in a deep way because they probably hadn’t thought about some of the things being as serious as they really are such as distracted driving or drunk driving,” she said.