Algonquin juniors learn safe driving lesson through staged collision

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

ARHS students and first responders role play during a mock accident to illustrate effects of marijuana and alcohol on driving.Photos/Melanie Petrucci
ARHS students and first responders role play during a mock accident to illustrate effects of marijuana and alcohol on driving.
Photos/Melanie Petrucci

Northborough-Southborough – High School juniors at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) in Northborough watched a mock accident as part of their Junior Safe Driving Day April 26. The event was a project coordinated by the school’s Guidance Department in conjunction with the Northborough and Southborough Fire and Police departments.

    “We pre-selected some junior students who were part of the Improv and Drama [clubs] and they had to be completely quiet about the event. They pre-recorded the setting and they wrote the scripts…,” explained Becca Haberman, ARHS guidance counselor.

    “One of the things that we find is juniors become independent drivers, especially when they can have friends start going in cars with them. So, we want to have them understand what can happen when they are distracted while driving,” she noted.

    The mock collision involved two cars of nine kids leaving a party where they had been smoking pot and drinking. In the simulation, an officer arrived to find a fatality which made it a crime scene. Detectives were then called in and firefighters and paramedics soon arrived on the scene.

RHS students learn about the effects of marijuana and alcohol on driving. Photos/Melanie Petrucci
ARHS students learn about the effects of marijuana and alcohol on driving.
Photos/Melanie Petrucci

Three people were trapped and, in this scenario, it took about 20 minutes to sort out the situation, assess injuries, free any trapped victims and send them to the hospital. In real life collisions, it often takes longer than that.

    ARHS had organized this simulation a few years ago, and brought it back at the request of students in the club Take Action Seek Change (TASC). Haberman said they were concerned about kids driving who think that with pot they are better drivers.

    “They think they are better drivers because they think they drive slower and that they have more concentration,” Haberman said. “That’s why the students in TASC really wanted to bring this back.”

    She hopes that this exercise will make kids think about their decisions and the impact of those decisions.

    Andrea Hotchkin, faculty advisor to TASC, said that the group focuses on being there for their friends and empowering students to make good choices in these situations.

    “Our goal is to provide as realistic a scenario as possible and a lot of it is based on our experiences as first responders, and calls that we’ve been on,” said Southborough Fire Captain Mark Sadowski, who was the designated commander for this event. They volunteered their time and worked collaboratively with Southborough Police and their Northborough counterparts.

    “Hopefully this is a step forward to spread this message and hopefully these kids will have a firm understanding of some of the consequences of what goes on and what really happens when these accidents happen,” Sadowski said.