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Mock Crash Brings Realities Of Drunk Driving To Campus

A mock crash was staged at Pinnacle High School to show the dangers of drunk driving. Fire crews responded, as did an Air Evac helicopter.
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
A mock crash was staged at Pinnacle High School to show the dangers of drunk driving. Fire crews responded, as did an Air Evac helicopter.

One in five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 had some alcohol in their system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But to many teens, that’s just a number, which is why advocates say staging mock car crashes at high schools is an effective way to show the realities of drunk driving.

A smashed sedan is lowered from a tow truck  onto the sidewalk outside Pinnacle High School. It’s much less dramatic than an actual rollover. But the glass shards on the ground and fuel dripping out of a gas tank that’s now facing skyward are realistic touches

So are the “victims” about to get into the car.

"Oh yes I’m all bloodified, gory here. Got some fake blood dripping down my face," said Chandler Wagner, who graduated from Pinnacle in 2013 and is back at her alma mater to, basically, play dead.

Her mom, Tina Greggo, is a long-time member of Mothers Awareness on School-Aged Kids, or MASK, which arranged the crash.

"Seeing her in the car is just gonna be surreal," Greggo said.

Getting Greggo to feel that way about the crash isn’t too hard considering her daughter is a victim — making students take it seriously is the challenge. That’s why MASK takes realism to the next level with their mock crashes.

Michelle Cardini is the organization’s co-founder.

"We asked parents not to tell the students so it would be something that would really grab their attention. What’s going on? Why is this going on? What happened?" she said.

MASK forewarned parents about the crash with phone calls, but asked that they keep the event secret from their kids. As the students arrive in cars and buses, MASK steps aside and waits to see if the stunt works.

"I was just sitting on the bus, enjoying my morning, and my heart kind of stopped when I saw this," said tenth grader Josh Hardy.

Hardy and many of his classmates had no clue the crash was happening today. He says he’s used to teachers warning them about reckless driving, but this was new.

"Definitely has more of an impact because the crowd is getting bigger by the moment," Hardy said.

By the time a fire crew is ripping open the back door with the Jaws of Life, more than a hundred kids are pressed against the school fence. A yellow evacuation helicopter heads in for a landing. Some students are laughing and recording video of the scene with their smartphones, but others are not so sure this isn’t a real situation.

But does the impact of the mock crash last? Advocates with the Arizona chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving say behavior change from mock crashes is short-lived, so they encourage groups to conduct them right before a high-risk time, like prom or spring break.

Groups also have to weigh the cost to the benefits of a mock crash. An elaborate scene like the one at Pinnacle can cost thousands of dollars to create. But Cardini said it’s worth it.

"Because kids, they don’t want to hear someone standing up there talking about statistics," she said.

And MASK doesn’t want Arizona teens to become another number in a data set about drunk driving. They’re hoping the imagery will stick with students at least through next week’s spring break.

Annika Cline was a producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2014 to 2019.