Sobering Consequences

Safety education at Rim Country Middle School teaches students the enormous consequences of driving drunk — even if you don’t die


Many students at Rim Country Middle School raised their hands to ask questions after seeing a demonstration with the “Rollover Randy” device as it graphically showed what happens to occupants of a vehicle who don’t wear a seat belt.

Many students at Rim Country Middle School raised their hands to ask questions after seeing a demonstration with the “Rollover Randy” device as it graphically showed what happens to occupants of a vehicle who don’t wear a seat belt. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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The dummy rolled a couple of times in the specialized truncated car then catapulted out the window.

A collective gasp escaped from the lips of the gathered eighth-grade students.

“Officer Montgomery and I see that weekly,” said Officer Thomason from Arizona’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). “When a body hits the asphalt, it’s like sandpaper on the skin.”

Between the recent deaths in Rim Country of children as a result of rollover accidents and crashes they experienced personally, the “Rollover Randy” presentation hit home to many of the students in the audience.

Matt McCarthy, a seventh-grader, lost a relative in an accident he experienced when he was a toddler.

“I was 2, so I don’t remember much. One didn’t make it though,” he said of the accident.

Lori Standifird, who works with behavior issues at Rim Country Middle School (RCMS), arranged for the two DPS officers to present the consequences of not wearing a seat belt at the Alcohol Awareness/Auto Safety Day at the middle school.

The Rollover Randy presentation was one of a few assemblies throughout the day designed to educate the students on safety as part of the Character Counts/ H.E.R.O. (Helping Everyone Respect Others) program at the middle school.

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Wearing the goggles that distort vision and make it difficult to walk and stay balanced, eighth-graders had to traverse an obstacle course and then toss a basketball at the net and try to score points.

Each year, RCMS holds a safety awareness day. Last year, the students pledged to not text and drive. They also learned about the devastation drug use causes.

This year, after a series of accidents from Saige Bloom dying when her accelerator stuck and she rolled to avoid another car, to a 7-year-old ejected from her father’s car after he rolled on a dangerous curve on Highway 87, to a middle school student suffering fatal injuries after a family friend’s Jeep rolled while off-roading, RCMS staff decided to focus the safety assemblies on auto safety.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that auto accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. citizens aged 5 to 34.

The CDC also reported, “U.S. adults drank too much and got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010.”

That caused more than 10,000 deaths.

Out of the more than 1,000 traffic accidents in 2010 involving children from infants to 14, about 17 percent involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

If passengers wear seat belts, they are 50 percent less likely to have an injury in an accident, reported the CDC.

In a survey conducted by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, injuries from auto accidents remain the leading cause of death for U.S. children.

To drive home the message about not driving while impaired, RCMS staff arranged to show a video of graphic accident scenes. Staff made it clear to students that if they found the material too disturbing, they could leave.

Good thing, because the half a second images left permanent pictures in the mind. Many of the students sat watching with mouths gaping in disbelief.

After the video finished, local Justice of the Peace Dorothy Little spoke frankly with the students.

“I see every DUI driver that gets arrested,” she said. “They are brought into me in handcuffs and I say to them, ‘Your charge is driving impaired.’”

Then she reads them the litany of consequences to their arrest: jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, suspended license, and alcohol and drug counseling.

Many cannot get their car back until they complete an expensive class and install a breathalizer in the ignition of their car. The breathalizer forces the driver to breathe into a tube which determines if the driver is impaired. The driver must be sober in order for the car to start.

The cost of driving impaired is enormous, said Little.

“I’ve had people tell me they’ve paid about $10,000 to fix their drunk driving sentence,” said Little.

She said if convicted of drunk driving people face huge consequences that include possible loss of student loans to failing an application to rent an apartment.

Sobered after the intense video and message from the judge, students filled out of the gym to eat lunch.

Pick any random cafeteria table and each RCMS student has a story of accidents or drunk drivers.

Sierra Seaborn, a seventh-grader, Cassie Satathite and Ashlynn Talbeaot, both eighth-graders, have either heard, seen or been in an accident.

Ashlynn said that a family acquaintance, an alcoholic, once drove her while he was drunk. She resented the danger he put her in.

Sierra has seen an accident.

Cassie said she has heard of accidents, but after watching Rollover Randy and hearing Judge Little she will avoid driving drunk.

“I won’t drink and drive,” she said, “My dad doesn’t drink much, but when he does, it’s only a beer at home and he doesn’t drive.”

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