APSO to begin high school driving safety program
By: Howell Dennis
CROWLEY - “If we can save the lives of one or two young adults then this program will be worth it,” said Acadia Parish Sheriff Wayne Melancon.
Melancon and Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Maxine Trahan were referring to a program that is intended to teach high school students about the danger of drinking and driving, texting and other dangerous habits that teenagers partake in that have caused car accidents that result in injuries and deaths. The striking part of the program, which Trahan learned of through a similar program put on by the Junior League of Lafayette, is its the horrific dose of reality involved.
For example, students who participate in the program, will play the parts of victims in an car wreck that was caused by drinking, texting or any other activity that may distract students from the act of driving. The first school that will be shown the presentation will be Rayne High School. According to Trahan, each school in the parish will be presented with the program over the next few years. The timing of Rayne’s presentation is not by coincidence. Rayne High School’s program will be filmed on March 22.
“We’d like to get it out before prom season,” said Trahan. “We intend to go to every high school in the parish so that they can film a similar production over the next few years but our first will be Rayne and Church Point High Schools because they seem to have had the most accidents recently during the prom season.”
“And, obviously, prom season isn’t the only time that these young adults should use caution when they drive,” added Trahan.
And it won’t just be the APSO taking part either.
“We’re going to make this as realistic as possible, “ said Trahan. “We’ve already spoken with Police Chiefs K.P. Gibson (Crowley), Albert Venable (Church Point) and Carroll Stelly (Rayne) and they are enthusiastic about it and have agreed to help us. We are trying to drum up as much community involvement as possible.”
To give an example the program’s realism, the students that volunteer to take part in the service are made to look seriously injured or even dead. In the video Trahan showed of the program being played out at Acadiana High School in Lafayette, a girl who played the part of a fatal victim of a car crash and is actually zipped up in a body bag, with her parents present while volunteers from Acadian Ambulance pick her up to bring her body to the morgue.
“I drank one time when I was driving and I had a friend take my keys from me and refuse to let me drive home,” said the girl who was very emotional after the filming at Acadiana High. “When they zipped shut the body bag and I could hear my parents crying I realized how stupid I was to want to drive home that night.
I want to thank my friend for saving my life.”
The girl’s parents, who were aware that their daughter would be taking part in a school program but didn’t know she’d play the part of a victim in a car wreck, became very emotional when seeing their daughter in the body bag even though they knew she was just playing a role.
To drive home the point of how dangerous an accident involving teenage negligence can be, a person dressed as ‘the Grim Reaper’ stands near the wreck, remaining silent the entire time.
“We are very enthusiastic with the agencies who have volunteered to take part in the program,” said Trahan. “The Coroner’s Office, Acadian Ambulance, the funeral homes, American Legion Hospital and others who see that this is a program that these young adults need to see.”
Trahan also said that the Sheriff’s office is actively seeking donations for the production, brining in speakers (possibly some who have lost loved ones in accidents) and pay for t-shirts for those who are involved in the program.
“Any businesses or persons who wish to donate will be recognized and have their name put on the t-shirt,” added Trahan.
“The generation of young adults these days seem to have a ‘no fear’ type of attitude,” she continued. “They need to see how much pain and suffering can be involved when just one wrong choice can lead to a tragedy.”
“Wayne has always had the youth of this parish very close to his heart,” concluded Trahan. “Be it through the BASE Mentoring Program or the ACT prep course or a program such as this one. He want’s to make sure that they make the right decisions that help them to lead healthy, productive lives.”
Those wishing to donate to the APSO’s program may contact Maxine Trahan at (337) 788-8788.