Mock Crash at Cleveland High Showcases Dangers of Impaired Driving

JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. – A scene of a screaming mother, students covered in fake blood, and a crew of first responders played out at Cleveland High School, showcasing the scary realities of impaired driving.
While emotionally impactful, the mock crash demonstration is meant to show young drivers the real-life consequences that distracted and impaired driving can cause.

The crash reenactment is a collaborative effort between the Governor's Highway Safety Program, State Highway Patrol, Cleveland Fire Department, Duke Life Flight, and other first responders.

State Trooper Colby Hall helped develop the idea, explaining, "The biggest thing we've tried to hit on here is four main points: speeding, impaired driving, distracted driving, and not wearing seatbelts. If we can get students to avoid all four, we'll be in good shape."

The statistics underline the need for this type of awareness-raising. In 2020, over 44,000 crashes in North Carolina were caused by distracted driving, while DWIs caused about a quarter as many crashes but resulted in more than 250% more fatalities.

One mother, Marilee Patterson, knows this tragedy firsthand. Her 15-year-old son, Ethan Handly, was killed by an impaired driver in 2019. Patterson participated in the presentation, sharing her family's devastating experience with Cleveland High students.

"Ethan was coming home from the movies and sitting at a red light. Who would think you could possibly be injured sitting still?" she said. "The vehicle Ethan was in was hit approximately 85 mph on impact, after the other vehicle reached speeds over 110 mph."

Ethan and his friend's grandmother, Marjory Howell Wagner, were both killed in the crash.

"You can choose and save lives every time you get behind the wheel," Patterson urged. "You just never know when you might be presented with the choice to spare another family from the pain that mine has to spend the rest of our lives living."

The impactful message comes as more young drivers will be on the roads for prom, graduation, and summer travel.

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