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Mock drunk-driving crash sends sobering message to Massapequa students

At Massapequa High School, representatives of the Massapequa

At Massapequa High School, representatives of the Massapequa Fire Department and the Nassau County Police Department simulate a motor vehicle accident to discourage students from driving while intoxicated. (April 15, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

As Massapequa firefighters tended to the other victims of a two-car crash, 17-year-old Shannon Batt, wearing a prom dress, lay limp on the ground with a white sheet draped over her body.

After an emergency helicopter and ambulance carried away the injured survivors, who were all clad in formal attire, a black sedan sped to the accident scene. A man and a woman rushed out of the car and screamed at the sight of Batt on the ground.

“My baby!” cried out the woman as she lifted the sheet to identify Batt.

More than 1,200 juniors and seniors from Massapequa High School watched this mock drunk-driving accident unfold Monday from the stands of their school's football stadium. The elaborate demonstration incorporated firefighters from the Massapequa Fire Department, officers from the Nassau County Police Department and student actors from the high school. Though the scene was staged and no one was actually harmed, it depicted a scenario that Massapequa Fire Chief Gerard Keuchler called “extremely realistic.”

“These are things that we do on a too-often basis,” Keuchler said. “Getting behind the wheel after partying too much can result in tremendous tragedy for all involved.”

This is the second time in the past four years that Massapequa High School has shown this program to its older students as they enter into prom and graduation season.

“These kids are a little more visual than we were growing up,” Keuchler said. “We’re trying to ram home that shock value.”

Speaking to the students, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano stressed the importance of planning ahead and selecting a designated driver before they go out.

“If you do not care about your own life, care about the innocent victims,” he said.

Barbara Williams, principal of Massapequa High School, said she hopes the program makes students think before getting behind the wheel if they are under the influence, or into a car with someone else who is.

“You’re not going to reach everybody,” she said. “But if we can reach even just one student, then we’ve done our job.”

The program had an impact on junior Allison Nash, 16.

“It was extremely unsettling to see, especially when her parents came,” Nash said. “It kind of makes you think about your own family and how they would feel if you got into a situation like this.”

After witnessing the demonstration, junior Brian Greene, 16, came to this conclusion: “I’m just going to be the designated driver as soon as my prom night comes along.”

Batt, a junior firefighter and a senior at Massapequa High School, was inspired to play the role of the DOA, because one of her relatives was involved in a drunk-driving crash in her mid-20s that left her paralyzed.

“It really affected me and my family,” she said. “I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to my friends.”

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