‘Until the accident.’

Mock accident at RHS intended to promote seatbelt use and safe driving

Do you put on your seatbelt every time you get in a car? The mock accident held at RHS on April 1 was intended to encourage students to wear seatbelts and avoid distracted driving. A preliminary seatbelt use survey on Jan. 7 indicated 59.8% of parents, students and teachers observed in the school parking lot were using seatbelts. In a follow-up survey April 17, that percentage had increased to 85.8%. Parents had the lowest percentage of seatbelt use among the three groups. MATT SCOGGINS PHOTO

Mock accident at RHS intended to promote seatbelt use and safe driving

RBC | It was an ordinary day for Rangely Jr./Sr. High School students.

Until the accident.

One student dead. Others injured. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare come to pass.

In this case, the accident wasn’t real, thankfully.

Rural Colorado falls far beyond the norm when it comes to wearing our seatbelts, which is odd considering the distance most of us travel to get from place to place. Do you wear your seatbelt every time you get in the car?

Witnessing a “mock accident” is one way to encourage irregular seatbelt users to step up their game.

Last December Sharma Vaughn from Rangely District Hospital began discussion with officers from Rangely High School’s Student Council about partnering in a seatbelt use and safe driving initiative to increase seatbelt use and decrease the number of accidents.

RHS Student Council co-chair Kaylelle Wyman wrote an article about the initiative for the school which follows:

“Last December, the Rangely Student Council officers were approached by Sharma Vaughn, head registered nurse at Rangely District Hospital and member of the regional trauma team, to partner in a seatbelt and safe driving initiative to raise seat belt usage and hopefully decrease the number of accidents within our community.  This led to numerous meetings with personnel from the hospital, emergency medical responders, local fire department, state troopers, and local law enforcement.

Kyle Boydstun, RHS StuCo advisor, said, “The kids took off with the idea and really made it their own. While they wanted to get a message across, they wanted it to be positive and from a place of caring, not preachy or negative.”

Student council officers, students, the Rangely Fire Department, Rangely hospital, EMS crew, and state patrol worked together to promote safe driving practices with two assemblies and a mock accident at the high school on April 1.

The Student Council executive officers—Kassidee Brown, Kaylelle Wyman, Skylar Thacker, Dillya Wagner, Dylan LeBleu, Jayleen Kenney and Zoey Peck—conducted an initial seat belt count on the morning of Jan. 7; as students and parents arrived at school, the StuCo officers surveyed everyone as they entered the parking lots. The percentage of students and parents that used seat belts that morning was 59.8%.  Next, the officer team reached out to the community to procure funding for their planned activities, raising almost $2,000. As part of the pledge to the donors, the officers are planning a second seat belt check and survey sometime after Prom; the final seatbelt usage percentage will determine how much the donors will have to donate. For example, if the students and parents achieve a 90% seat belt usage rate, then the donors will donate 90% of the pledged $2,000. Following more planning with the community’s first responders, the result of their work culminated on April 1, where the Rangely Student Council hosted an assembly in the high school auditorium, a mock accident in the upper parking lot, and a follow-up assembly back in the auditorium. Sixth through 12th grade students, faculty and community members were all invited to attend the event.

At the first assembly Student Council co-chair Kaylelle Wyman welcomed everyone and unveiled the “Buckle-up Buttercup” theme as well as how and why the event came about. Andy Shaffer, town mayor and fire chief, spoke about statistics on distracted driving and how important it is to not text and drive.  Rangely Police officer Ty Hamblin reminded students that ATVs and safety equipment are just as important as seatbelts in vehicles and spoke about town ATV usage and regulations. Colorado State Troopers Eric Dibenedetto and Chad Rizzuto explained the statistics of the rollover scenario presented at the mock accident and invited a volunteer to demonstrate how long it takes to text “I’ll be there in five minutes” without looking ahead. He followed up with a description of roll-over accidents and the type of work that Troopers are required to do in reconstructing an accident.  Sharma Vaughn utilized internet memes and videos to provide a humorous yet touching presentation on seat belt usage titled “I Need You Here With Me.” She also showed the number of deaths in Rio Blanco County since 2004 caused by a motor vehicle collision; 35 students were asked to come to the stage with a seatbelt in hand to represent those deaths and what that number looks like. Wyman closed the assembly by reminding students that it’s important to wear their seatbelts, even just to school.

After the assembly and lunch, students, teachers and community members gathered in the upper parking lot to witness a mock accident. The scenario, read and presented by RHS Principal Crandal Mergelman, featured four seniors (one unbuckled) on their way back from senior ditch day. The driver takes a SnapChat photo to document the day. While the driver is distracted, a deer runs in front of the car and the driver swerves to miss it causing the vehicle to roll over.

Bart Nielsen and the fire department provided a rolled-over vehicle that three student victims (RHS seniors Kassidee Brown, CJ Lucero and Phalon Osborn) climbed into. Senior Stetson Cudo played the victim not wearing a seat belt and ejected from the vehicle.

Prior to the mock accident, seniors Abby Shriver and Marlena Miller, applied moulage, or realistic-looking wound make-up, to all four “victims.” Skylar Thacker and Grady Nielsen played the role of friends coming up on the accident and reporting it to 911. Police Officer Ty Hamblin played the role of dispatch. The first responders were the Colorado State Troopers, then the Rangely fire department crew, followed by the ambulance crew.

The state troopers worked with the fatality, Cudo, while the fire department pried the doors of the vehicle off to extricate the other three victims. The troopers made the call that Cudo was a fatality and put him in the body bag for his last ride.

Rizutto explained to the audience the role of the Colorado State Patrol as the first responders arrived and Jaspar Whiston from the fire department helped narrate the action as the fire department and EMS personnel performed triage and assessment of the victims and removed them from the vehicle. When the fire department got the other three out, they applied neck braces to each victim and placed them on backboards and presented them to the crowd before loading them up in the ambulance.

The event seemed to have a profound impact on many. RHS student Emiliano Rocha said, “Nothing could have opened up my eyes more than what was presented at the school.” 

The mock accident fatality victim, Stetson Cudo, stated, “For me this mock accident was a big step in an amazing direction for the young kids at Rangely Junior/Senior High School.  In my eyes, having the role of being the deceased in the mock accident was an honor. I felt that many of the younger kids through our school who have looked up to me have learned a valuable lesson about safety and the importance of being safe in a vehicle.”

Following the mock accident the crowd returned to the auditorium. StuCo advisor Kyle Boydstun asked questions of the students involved, including makeup/moulage artists Marlena Miller and Abby Shriver; volunteer fire department personnel Aspen Low, Tristan Moore, Tytus Coombs and Kaiden Ellis. The role players in the mock accident were included in the student panel. Finally, Kaylelle Wyman, Kassidee Brown and Skylar Thacker represented the Student Council officers who hosted the accident. The audience had a chance to ask many questions of the student panel as well as other first responders. 

“Thank you for opening our eyes and doing something that can save many lives,” said sophomore Dixie Rhea.

The overall goal, according to Wyman, is to encourage students into wearing their seatbelts every time in a vehicle and to never be distracted while driving. Wyman stressed that, “RHS Student Council and volunteers want everyone to know that we care about them!”

Julie Drake, Public Health Director for Rio Blanco County and whose agency helped fund the event, was impressed with the student and community collaboration, stating, “Students learning from influential peers will always be more impactful than adults lecturing and chastising them. What a wonderful prevention message other schools should be encouraged to copy.”

Kassidee Brown, StuCo co-chair and “driver” in the mock accident stated, “I knew the accident that day was a mock accident and I had played a large part in planning the seat belt initiative. However, lying in a pool of blood in the driver seat knowing I was the reason my friend was no longer next to me and my other two friends were injured in the back seat, I will never drive distracted, get in the car without buckling up or let others in my car without a seat belt ever again. This project changed my entire view on safe driving and seatbelts. Getting in the driver seat has an entirely new meaning to me and I feel this project really impacted our school and community.”

The student council officers would like to thank all students, staff, community members, and first responders, whether mentioned in this article or not, who helped in the planning and execution of the event, including Shanna Kinney and her EMS staff. The donors for the event include the Rangely District Hospital board, Rio Blanco Public Health, Big D’s, Utah Gas Corporation, NAPA, and Prime Well Fishing & Rental.”

Special to the Herald Times

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