The numbers are sobering. More than 1 in 4 teen car crash fatalities, which are the leading cause of death for teens nationwide, involve an underage drinking driver. Texas has the 6th highest rate in the U.S. of teens who say they’ve driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Here in Travis County, recent reports showed 34 people, including six young adults, died in one year in crashes involving drivers under the influence.
But in the Pflugerville area, first responders are determined to cut these heart-breaking numbers. This month marks the 15th anniversary of the “To Save Just One” program, which the Pflugerville Fire Department created in 2001 to take a proactive approach to end-of-the-school-year teen parties. The event for seniors at Hendrickson High School and Pflugerville High School starts with a compelling presentation inside each school, followed by a dramatized car crash outdoors.
“We’ve timed our program to be on the hearts and minds of seniors right before their prom and graduation, when they’ll face a huge amount of pressure and temptations,” said Fire Capt. Robert Ortiz. “The presentation is emotional and the mock crash may seem morbid. But that’s the point – to encourage the kids to think before they drink, and use their positive decision-making skills no matter where they’re sitting in the car.”
The program requires extensive preparation, including the generous participation of STAR Flight aerial emergency medical service, Austin-Travis County EMS, Pflugerville Police, and PfISD Police. Wrecked cars are donated by Aus-Tex Towing & Recovery. The Fire Department has been working with faculty and students at both high schools for several weeks who will play roles in the dramatized crash – the drunk, the deceased, the injured passengers – and wear heavy moulage make-up to bring the lesson to life.
“Many hours of work goes on behind-the-scenes to pull off this program,” Capt. Ortiz said. “But if it saves even one life, then it was well worth it. After all, our local youths are our greatest resource.”
The schedule, mock crash students, and guest presenters are as follows:
Hendrickson High School
Friday, May 13, 2016
19201 Colorado Sand Dr., Pflugerville, starting in the Performing Arts Center
11:20 a.m. – Indoor Presentation Starts
12 p.m. – Mock Crash Outdoors
around 12:45 p.m. – Interview Opportunity with Students and Fire Department representative
STUDENTS: Eric Abels, Alicia St. Germaine, Abigail Marinelacena, Khimani Smith, Chance Rojas, Chase Reyes, and Jacob Ladigo
PRESENTERS: Sean Carter and his mother Jenny
More information: Sean Carter took a fateful ride from a college friend who’d been drinking with him. A crash left the 22-year-old in a wheelchair unable to speak, with a computer as his voice.
Pflugerville High School
Friday, May 20, 2016
1301 West Pecan, Pflugerville, starting in the Fine Arts Center
10:40 a.m. – Indoor Presentation Starts
11:25 a.m. – Mock Crash Outdoors
Around 12:10 p.m. – Interview Opportunity with Students and Fire Department representative
STUDENTS: Miguel Poseda, Emily Fahey, Bryce McDonald, Lisa Fobbs, Catherine Atkinson, and Mercey McBride
PRESENTER: Andi Shimek, mother of Kevin Shimek
More information: Texas State University student, aspiring model, and national water skiing champion Kevin Shimek was a passenger in a drunk driving crash that took his life.