LAURINBURG — Laurinburg Police Department is hoping to make the public aware of the dangers of impaired driving and not wearing seat belts in a profound way.
They have partnered with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and a nonprofit group to set up a graphic display of a wrecked car involved in a drunken driving incident.
The first stop for the demonstration was Scotland High School.
“I brought this out here two weeks ago to show students the consequences of drinking and driving and making bad choices and not wearing your seatbelt,” said Sgt. Josh Byrd, one the local officers heading up the program. “This was an actual car that was involved in a wreck, and you can read the story that tells what happened.”
The display was loaned to the program by the nonprofit group VIP for VIP − Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person.
The group was founded by Greensboro firefighter, Steve Zimmerman, and other first responders. After having to rescue what they considered too many teens from crashes, they created a program to give teen drivers a chance to see the realities of a collision.
“The concept is if they could see what we see as emergency service workers, maybe they would make better choices when they get behind the wheel of a car,” Zimmerman said.
The program started in 1998 with dramatic skits and student assemblies. Eventually the parent of a teen who died in a crash offered Zimmerman the totaled car for use as a striking visual aid. The program now has four cars that were wrecked in different scenarios. Three of those cars are from fatalities. The exception is the car that Laurinburg has on display. Zimmerman calls it their second chance car because the passenger lived.
Byrd has not had any one on one feedback on the impact of the exhibit but has seen quite a few people stopping to look at the display and read the story behind it.
According to a sign on the exhibit, the car’s owner “Aaron” allowed a friend who had been drinking to drive the two teens to a store. The driver failed to slow down when rounding a curve and lost control of the car hitting several trees. Aaron who was not wearing a seatbelt was ejected from the car and lay in a coma for a month. His parents even considered removing him from life support. Aaron was fortunate enough to awake from the coma but with mental deficits and some disfigurement, according to Zimmerman.
Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams was in full support of the idea when Byrd approached him with the idea for the exhibit.
“We live in a visual world. Seeing it, being able to read what took place with this young man and what he had to go through that night with this wreck, it brings a different perspective on driving impaired,” Williams said. “Here at graduation most people go to the beach and they go on vacation and let your hair down, but you still have to be conscious of your surroundings and what you’re doing. This was a visual that we wanted to put out here to give the kids some food for thought going into summer break.”
Williams has seen people walk from the gas station across the street just to the school to look at the display leading him to consider setting it up in other areas around town.
“You have to get the message out. You have to keep beating the bushes with it,” Williams said.
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s 2016 Traffic Crash Report, there were 11, 264 alcohol related wrecks across the state for 2015. Those crashes led to 8,189 injuries. Three hundred seventy-six of those collisions resulted in 402 deaths.
The report breaks those wrecks down by city and county. In Scotland County, 51 reported alcohol- related crashes resulted in 46 injuries with one of those being a fatality.
Laurinburg reported 282 total collisions with 14 of those being alcohol-related and nine injuries stemming from crashes involving alcohol.
Gibson had 11 reported crashes with one alcohol related wreck leading to two injuries.
Wagram had 15 reported total crashes with one wreck resulting from a DWI leading to one injury. Laurel Hill reported one crash that was not alcohol related in that time.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169