Intense event at Hamilton High shows dangers of distracted driving

Hamilton High School students watched Wednesday morning as local firefighters, paramedics and police responded to a mock car crash in the school’s parking lot — the staged scene part of an effort to prevent tragedies during prom and graduation season.

John Wilhelm, principal of Hamilton High School, said the mock crash event hadn’t been performed at the school in more than six years, but after losing two graduates in motor vehicle incidents last year, it was time to have the production again.

“I hope this message resonated with each and every one of you,” Wilhelm told the students gathered at the mock crash. “Unfortunately, in the past year we’ve lost two Hamilton High School graduates in Justin and Danny and I know some of you know them. And it’s heartbreaking when it happens not only for our students but also for our staff and the Hamilton community and the families involved.”

The accidents involved Justin Asher, 22, a 2013 Hamilton High grad, who died in November after he crashed his dirt bike into a parked vehicle, and 2016 grad Daniel Accorinti, 18, who was pronounced dead at the scene of a crash in June in Reily Twp.

Wilhelm added that young drivers have to understand that making good decisions when behind the wheel saves lives and being a distracted driver — talking on the phone and not paying attention to the road — can be a death sentence.

MORE: Distracted driving drawing law enforcement attention

Last year, the number of reported distracted drivers rose 5 percent over the previous year, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, after rising 11 percent from 2014 to 2015.

“That phone call and text can wait and the most important thing is your life and the lives of those in your car and other vehicles. So take that into consideration not only now or in prom and graduation season, but also in the future,” he said.

Kim Wentz, director of the Hamilton Safety Council, said some administrators feel that the mock crashes can be too intense for students to see, but he believes the no-nonsense message is needed.

“Prom week is this week and we try to do this to maybe show students the danger that they are facing not just this week but through the rest of their lives,” Wentz said. “We want them to see that driving is most dangerous thing they do. They do it everyday and they don’t respect the power of the vehicle and we want them to see that and realize how dangerous it is.”

Hamilton firefighter Joe Lorance was setting up the scene at 6 a.m. and he said the presentation is worth every minute it takes to make it happen.

“We are trying to save lives by doing this, and if just one life can be saved then it has been totally worth it,” Lorance said.

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