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High impact: “No Second Chances’ came to Hough High

By Dave Vieser. The accident scene near the high school was horrific: A pick-up truck driven by an impaired motorist had just t-boned a small sedan with three Hough HS girls inside. One of the girls was killed instantly, while two others had to be cut out of the damaged car by crews from the Cornelius Police and Cornelius-Lemley Volunteer Fire Department, before being transported to the hospital.

Horrified students nearby witnessed the mid-day accident and ran to the scene, only to find out that one of their classmates was already dead.

Now for the good news: This accident was not for real, but rather the enactment of all-too-familiar incident seen on the roads of our town, county and state. It was all part of a new program brought to Hough High called “No Second Chances.”

Cornelius Police Sgt. Jonathon Sarver, head of the Traffic Safety Division, said the purpose was to remind students that they often don’t get that “second chance,” whether it pertains to speeding, substance abuse, or texting.

“Life’s about making the right choices in a world where you don’t always get a second chance,” Sarver said. “This is especially true when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds. To impress our high schoolers who often have a sense of indestructibility, we decided to stage this accident at lunch time right outside the high school.”

Shock and awe

It was stunning. It made an impression.

Several students from the school volunteered to play the role of the injured passengers in order to give the incident an even more realistic feel. The idea for the program began with a similar national program, and Sgt. Sarver credits Huntersville Police Officer Ricardo Carter with bringing the mock accident idea to Hough. “Office Carter had a long waiting list for the program down there but offered to help us work out the lifelike scene at the school.”

Sarver worked closely with school officials before the mock accident, and while the students were advised that something was about to happen, the specifics were kept under wraps. After the incident was over, he joined School Resource Officer Amanda Lawing and school staff in a post incident student assembly to discuss their reactions.

“It was kind of a shock and awe approach and I think we achieved our objective,” he said.

Safer driving

The program made quite an impression on Jordan Brunelle, a senior who portrayed one of the injured passengers. “It felt so real” said Brunelle, 18. “I’ve been driving for almost three years and have found myself being more laid-back and not as alert as I should be. After being in that simulation, I have found myself more nervous, and I truly believe I have never been a safer driver than I am now.”

Brunelle says she has often heard that it takes a severe event or situation to open your eyes. “I’m glad I could experience it without it having been a reality.”

That’s precisely the type of reaction Sarver was hoping to elicit. He emphasized that the No Second Chances approach doesn’t just apply to impaired driving but could be useful towards any distractions often seen among youthful drivers, such as loud music, overcrowding and texting, as well as not using seat belts.

Some students took the enactment more seriously than others. “If this makes a difference for one teenager, then it was well worth it,” Sarver said.