DUI message hits homePublished 10:44pm Friday, May 2, 2014
In the lead up to one of the riskiest nights for teen drivers and passengers — prom — Nansemond River High School juniors and seniors Friday experienced the horrors of drunken driving with a mock DUI.
Near the football stadium, two wrecked sedans were positioned to simulate the aftermath of a head-on collision.
Inside the vehicles, students Brian Spicer, Chelsea Whitley, Alexis Glenn, Desiree Patterson and Taylor Flight played roles — either injured, dead, or unscathed but facing a hefty jail term.
As well as driving the message home for students, the annual demonstration is also an important training exercise for the first-responders who come to the rescue.
They included personnel from Suffolk Fire and Rescue, Suffolk Police Department and Sentara’s Nightingale rescue chopper, which landed a short distance from the wreckage to transport a “critically-injured” teen to the intensive-care unit.
Another youngster fared worse — Flight was carted off in a hearse.
“We use real-life students — people that are well-known throughout the school — to portray victims,” making the experience all the more real, said Joshua George, president of the school’s Crime Stoppers group.
The exercise is worthwhile even if gets through to just one student, George said.
Police declared the incident a “vehicular homicide,” according to police officer Robert Burton, presenter during the demonstration. His department colleague, Iris Davis, slapped a pair of handcuffs on Spicer.
“It’s pretty realistic,” said Amber Daubenspeck, one of the scores of student observers. “It gives a good example of what can happen if you drink and drive.
“They are my friends in the demonstration – that makes it more realistic.”
In the auditorium before the outdoor presentation, senior Suffolk law-enforcers Stephanie Burch, deputy police chief; Phil Ferguson, commonwealth’s attorney; and Raleigh Isaacs, the sheriff, presented on different aspects of drunken driving.
In Suffolk last year, 271 criminal cases involved drunk or impaired drivers, Burch said, and Virginia experienced 211 drunken-driving deaths in 2012.
“If you are lucky, you are going to be stopped by police,” she said.
Ferguson laid out the penalties, which include a mandatory minimum 90 days in prison for a third offense, which rises to the level of a felony.
“The best thing I can tell you is don’t allow yourself or your friends to become involved in these type of activities,” Ferguson said.
Isaacs explained the need-to-knows for appearing in court on a DUI charge. Don’t forget your wallet, he said, because defense attorneys — even before the stiff fines — don’t come cheap.
“If you have to go somewhere and drink, take a taxi home, and laugh all the way home that no one’s going to arrest you,” he said.