Court, law enforcement officials let students know dangers of impaired driving

Published 9:48 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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By Kat Woodruff-Carter

The Weekly Talon

On a gloomy May morning, Davie High students shuffle by grade level to the football stadium with no clue what they are walking into.

As they make their way to the stands, they soon see ambulances, police cars, and a wrecked car on the track.

Farther away from the wreckage and the emergency personnel walking through the scene, a hearse sits only a few yards away.

As they sit, the students notice it has started drizzling.

As confusion sets in, the sound of a phone dialing projects through the stadium’s sound system.

Suddenly, junior Avery Carter appears and is on the phone with the police saying a car crash has happened. As she continues her panicked call, senior Ian Koontz slowly slides out of the wreckage.

Students hear the radio saying someone was ejected from the car. Members of the rescue team arrive and start to cut the car apart.

While Koontz is subjected to a field sobriety test, the desperate cries of a distraught mother echo through the stadium as she arrives on the scene to find her daughter dead.

Unsurprisingly, it is clear from the outset that this scene playing out in front of the Davie High student body is just that: a scene. Unfortunately, its plot beats are ones first responders know all too well—one that often plays out on prom nights across America. This presentation is the core of Prom Promise, which is named for the promise not to drink and drive on prom night.

This presentation was set up by Magistrate Kevin D. Hendrix Sam Fry. While Magistrate Hendrix is known for setting bail, court dates, issuing warrants, and small claim civil court cases, he’s seen more than he would like to admit about bad accidents involving drunk drivers.

“We promise you the stuff we deal with for the rest of our lives, we don’t wish on anybody,” said Hendrix.

Sam Fry came to Hendrix with the idea and contacted assistant principal Cheryl Reeves. They spoke highly of how little administrators said no. “Everyone was willing to help the kids,” said Sam Fry.

Hendrix pushed, directed, and produced the event. He wanted to stress how the event is similar to an actual drunk driving accident, specifically the way Koontz was examined by EMS for medical issues first and then sent to law enforcement to be tested for sobriety. While being looked at by law enforcement, he was even questioned about drug use. Hendrix spoke about how marijuana can be a reason to get a DWI.

“Marijuana is a [impairing] drug, and it’s the same as drinking that much alcohol,” Hendrix said. “If it makes you high or gets you drunk, you are impaired.”

While Koontz was questioned on whether or not he was under the influence, the rescue team was taking the Jaws of Life to the car. They cut off the top to save senior Ty Miller. If the weather had cooperated, Miller would have been placed in an AirCare helicopter and gone for a life-saving ride. However, AirCare needs at least 1,000-foot-high clouds to fly.

The demolition of the car, however, played out exactly as the process goes. The quickest time the rescue team took apart a wrecked car while in the field was eight minutes. During this demonstration, they took it apart in about 10.

Ian Kootz did not know who he was playing until the day of the performance, but he hopes students understand how deadly it can be to drink and drive.

Senior Lauren O’Connor played the role of the student ejected from the car and was declared deceased on the scene. Kelly Funderburk played her mother, who came onto the track screaming and crying asking where her baby was. Funderburk is friends with O’Connor’s mother.

“Having someone I knew act as my mother made it feel that much more real,” O’Connor said. Funderburk was described as actually distraught and had real tears. O’Connor got involved after Sgt. Justin Stutts, DCHS School Resource Officer, asked her a few weeks ago about participating. In reflecting on the demonstration, she notes “I hope that students realize how serious drunk driving is and see the impact that it can have. It is the harsh reality.”

Hendrix says that this presentation is “DWI, or impaired driving, prevention for the younger and more inexperienced drivers who want to do what adults do and aren’t mentally or physically prepared for.”

Ultimately, Hendrix hopes students understand the consequences of their poor decisions.

“I hope they know that when we arrive on the scene, we will do everything we can to make a good outcome for them. In the end, I hope they know the best decision was not to do that in the first place.”

Sam Fry said: “Most of the time if you’re intoxicated and under the influence, you survive, and the people you’re with die.”

When it comes to fighting drunk driving, Hendrix notes that high school students need to have honest conversations about this issue. Parents also need to be willing to have these conversations with their children.

Hendrix suggested that teens educate themselves on the statistics of these deadly crimes.

As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes, last year, there were 300 deaths in drug and alcohol-related car crashes during prom season; 90% of teens expect their friends to use drugs or drink and drive on prom night; and teens felt pressured to do drugs or drink and drive during prom.

“The biggest thing for someone in high school is that the imperative driving thing will follow you forever. If someone is seriously hurt, then you will go to prison for it.” Hendrix says. “From a first responder standpoint, the most frustrating thing is learning that the person is drunk and knowing from that point that it was preventable.”

As the seminar ended amidst a continuing drizzle, Hendrix leaves students with the quote, “Prom night is full of memories. What you don’t want to remember is the night you killed a friend because you were driving impaired on drugs and alcohol.”

Hendrix wants to thank the Davie Rescue and Davie County Fire Marshall (Cameron Webb) and the Farmington Fire and Chief Todd Naylor, especially. Additional thanks go to NCSHP JD Kitchens, Davie EMS and their director, Joseph Ashburn, Davie County Sheriff JD Hartman, Kelly Funderburk, Benita Finney, and Attorney Rob Raisbeck.

Kat Woodruff-Carter is a staff member at The Weekly Talon, Davie High School’s online newspaper, and a former intern at the Enterprise Record.