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Value of Mock Car Crashes in Preventing Teen Drunk Driving Debated

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Mock car crashes are a popular way of illustrating the dangers of drinking and distracted driving to teens during prom and graduation season. But in Palm Beach in southern Florida, there is disagreement about how effective these events really are.

During a mock crash, students watch a scripted scene in which teens get into a serious crash because the driver was impaired. Police and fire-rescue rush to the scene. The crashed car is pried apart using the Jaws of Life, and injured students are rescued and treated. A hearse may drive away some students. The driver is given a sobriety test and is arrested.

“By themselves, they have minimal impact,” Claudia Bailly, spokeswoman for the United Way of Broward Commission on Substance Abuse, told the Sun-Sentinel. According to Penny Wells, Executive Director of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), research indicates that several days after the mock crash, the graphic image of twisted bodies and metal recedes from teen’s minds. They soon feel invincible once again, she added.

Bailly says continuous education throughout the year has a greater impact than a mock crash. Those messages also must target parents, she added.

Captain Don De Lucia of Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, which puts on crash reenactments several times a year, says they are worthwhile. “You never know how effective it’s going to be,” he said. “You figure if you save one (student), you accomplished something.”

4 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Genevieve Kirchman
    Genevieve Kirchman / April 29, 2012 at 2:34 am

    AND there is every possibility that could actually be a negative impact with our adolescent males, in particular, and they may make riskier choices as a result of this. IF that’s the case, then we’ve done more harm than good and obviously, no one would want that to happen so it’s worth the pause.

  2. Avatar of Debbie
    Debbie / April 24, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I agree with Jeff! Especially in these cost-cutting times, how can we justify the expense of a MOCK DUI when we have actual, data-driven research that proves that any type of “scared straight” program is ineffective in preventing the behavior we are attempting to stop. Most funders are refusing to support any activities today that aren’t research-based, effective, programs. If we want to change a child’s life, let’s examine what works!

  3. Avatar of Jeff
    Jeff / April 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

    While I would agree with Captain De Lucia that “If you save one student you’ve accomplished something” I don’t think that’s the central point of the article. In my opinion the point is limited resources are being used on a program that has minimal (if any) impact on behavior. At this point common wisdom would dictate we examine other programs that might work more effectively and devote those extra resources to them. If those resources save one student using this program but could save two in a different program, program two should be enhances with the extra resources.

  4. Jeff / April 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I agree Debbie. Especially in tight money times. Evidence-based is the name of the game (with a few exceptions). It’s been shown so often such programs produce minimal change frankly I’m surprised we still do them at all. The goal is laudable but the method needs to be examined. I think we have people that support such programs because we continue to think of people with problems as “children” in need of correction. Far from the truth. Such programs are usually geared toward scaring a pre-teen not geared toward educating a fully functional adult. We need to cease treating those with such issues as mental children.

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