Reality in numbers
• 1,502 fatalities from crashes in 2016, a higher number than in 2015
• Traffic accident deaths have risen by more than 300 in the past 2 years
• 15.6 fatal crashes per year in Forsyth County from 2009-2013
• 23 percent of those involved alcohol
• 4,844 deaths occurred on Georgia roadways in 4 years
• 670 of those were aged 20 or younger
• 23 people lose their life every week in Georgia in a traffic accident
• Trying to stop yourself from hitting the dashboard of a car at 30 mph is like trying to stop the momentum of a head-first dive from a 3-story building
• It takes 100 yards to stop a car traveling 55 mph
(Source: Ghost Out)
Watch the Studio Forsyth episode on Ghost Out.
A voice, not that of an adult but also not that of an unaware child, screamed from within a smashed vehicle in the parking lot of Lanier Technical College Saturday. The rain did not quell the cries for help.
The teenaged voice came from a car that had crashed at the hands of its drunk teenage driver on the way to prom, colliding with a family of three in another vehicle.
The crash did not actually happen. The two bodies sprawled on pavement, lifeless, bloody makeup swirling in puddles, were not actually dead. The driver was not actually drunk, and the bystander parents did not actually lose their only child.
Ghost Out, a reenactment program put on by Forsyth County Schools and the county’s handful of emergency response agencies, is meant to show high school students what could happen as a result of drunk or distracted driving. To show the scene was not real that day, but the same scene could be — and has been too often.
“This is a mock car accident involving high school students, and the driver was impaired. In this case, he was impaired by alcohol. We have two deceased fatalities … one from the high school car and one from an innocent family traveling down the roadway. There were three in that car,” said Steve Honn, school safety manager for the district.
Honn said every agency that would normally be involved in such an incident — the school system, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the Forsyth County Fire Department, Central EMS ambulances and first responders, the coroner, among others — respond in real time to the crash, going through “normal protocol as far as handling that and it being a live, active scene.”
A 911 dispatcher read statistics over the speaker system about drinking and driving, underage distracted driving and fatal crashes in Georgia.
She also went through the details of each driver and passenger’s injuries and consequences – from the drunk teenage driver who faced jail time and the knowledge that his actions led to the death of his friend, to a passenger who was permanently injured, to the other driver, a father who was not injured but who lost his 13-year-old daughter.
“A lot of people are visual learners,” Honn said. “If you can keep their sights on many different things going on at once, I think an hour and 15 minutes we can normally keep them entertained, but also we can teach them during that time, as well.”
In past years, Ghost Out was held at a different high school every other year.
“This year we thought to come together and see if we couldn’t put on a community event together on the weekend,” Honn said. “The feedback has always been why isn’t my child allowed to see this, and many they even went from 9-12th grade and never got to see it, and [parents] want to come see it, too.”
After the reenactment ended, attendees – a couple hundred eighth-12th graders and their parents – went inside the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center to participate in Teen Maze, a first-time program that accompanied Ghost Out.
“Parents come in and go through their sessions while kids go through … basically a life-sized Game of Life,” said Lindsey Simpson, prevention specialist for the school system. “They get a scenario and … they follow the path that would take them through.”
The scenarios may or may not impact them personally. For example, Simpson said, a student may be leaving a party and texts a friend. The student has been drinking, crosses the center line and hits another vehicle, killing his or her best friend in the passenger seat.
That student then goes through the court system.
Or if the scenario says the student is killed in the crash, he or she goes to his or her own funeral and writes the eulogy a parent would read.
“For some students, it does take that scare factor, that real life scenario, and that’s what we hope we’re doing,” Simpson said.
While it may depend on what it takes to reach different people, Honn said the goal of Ghost Out and Teen Maze can be individual or on the grand scale.
“You know the old cliché is if you can change one I did my job, and that’s truly the way we think about it,” he said. “If we got through to one student here today, or even a parent to talk differently or express some different considerations during prom season, then we did our job.”