Teens Learn Consequences of Distracted and Impaired Driving Before Prom Night

Fayetteville

Prom night can give teens an expectation of a glamorous night out with their school chums.  For several hundred Cape Fear High School seniors, their Thursday afternoon arrived with a sobering pre-prom safety message thanks to Trooper Deric Reed of Troop B, Fayetteville.

“Put the phones down and don’t drink,” Trooper Reed instructed the senior class assembled in the gymnasium.  “Stop and think: If you would laugh at someone else for doing what you’re about to do, don’t do it.”

The teens sat silently as gruesome film clips showed teens being hurtled around in slow motion when their speeding car hit another vehicle.  They saw photos of severed limbs.  They heard an Emergency Medical Service worker say that looking down while driving and typing LOL on a cell phone is the equivalent to having consumed four beers, then driving.  A district court judge said he would take a teen’s driver’s license if they were charged with distracted driving, impaired driving or possessing alcohol, and he would impound the car even if it belonged to the parents. 

“If you blow anything above a zero, I will take your driver’s license,” Judge Lou Olivera said.  “Do not hold a buddy’s alcohol.  I will take your driver’s license.”

The gymnasium presentations were the first part of the Keys to Life Program that started in 2001.  The purpose is to heighten awareness of high school and college students to the consequences of underage alcohol use, particularly around special events such as proms or graduations.

After hearing from the officials, the assembly moved to Cape Fear High’s football stadium to watch several theater students play the roles of teens involved in a horrific pre-staged accident.  EMS, first to arrive at the mock accident, put white sheets over two of the teens who had been thrown from the car.  The local fire department soon arrived and began cutting the car apart to release two seriously-injured teens from the vehicle.  State Highway Patrol Trooper Alan Humphrey arrived, investigated the accident and administered the Breathalyzer test to the teen driver.  He handcuffed her and placed her in the patrol car to take to jail.

Students were visibly moved by the scene, and afterwards several stopped to thank Trooper Reed for the presentation.

Reed, who works third shift in Fayetteville, coordinated this year’s event at Cape Fear High.  He said the hardest part is getting together representatives of EMS, the fire department, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Cumberland County’s 911 Communications Center, Alcohol Law Enforcement and the University of North Carolina Hospital’s life flight liaison.

“Getting all these busy agencies to cut out 30 minutes of their time to meet is monumental,” Reed said.  “There are a lot of phone calls, a lot of e-mails and a lot of questions from school administrators.  It’s a pretty big feat to get everyone together.”

Reed had participated in the Keys to Life Program when ALE Agent Derwin Brayboy was spearheading the events seven years ago.  ALE became overwhelmed with other duties, so Brayboy asked if the Highway Patrol could take over.  Reeds’ first sergeant approached him about presenting the programs.  Having covered gruesome wrecks himself, Reed was glad to be able to set up a program that can make teens aware of life or death choices.  He began with his own alma mater, South View High School.

“Staff from the school last year said that the program hammered a point home to the students – that driving drunk and getting killed was something they didn’t want to do,” Reed said. “I like changing minds and attitudes.  If I can change one person’s attitude out of 800, it’s still a victory.”

Reed is pushing to set up two Keys to Life programs per year in Cumberland County. 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving presented Reed with a third place award last year for making 154 Driving While Intoxicated arrests.  He works by himself on the third shift and Tuesday night he stopped a speeding motorcyclist who blew a .25, and he was incredulous. 

“As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a law enforcement officer,” Reed said.  “In high school, I was always attracted to the Highway Patrol’s image and what they stood for.”

Reed joined the U.S. Army and was a military policeman.  When he got out of the army in 1998, he joined the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and was a sergeant working the road.  He has been with the State Highway Patrol since February 2005.

 

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