Two teenagers lost their lives in west Houston when two vehicles collided in an alcohol-related crash on Thursday leaving four others seriously injured and a driver facing manslaughter charges.
The accident happened on the 14000 block of Fern Drive, a street across from Stratford High School and it is really an event that’s the dramatization of a DWI-related tragedy performed in front of a large student body. The realistic simulation of a deadly car wreck has been recreated for several years in numerous high schools throughout Texas with the joint effort of state and local organizations.
“Kids at this day and age are very visual, they need to see it,” Stratford High School Principal Chris Juntti said. “We can tell them not to do it, but when they can really see a real life reenactment of what happens when people get ejected from a car, the blood, the misery that takes place, we’re hoping that’ll leave a lasting impression on them.”
The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) created Shattered Dreams, an educational experience in the early 2000s for high school students to realize the dangers of drinking and driving and it was modeled after a similar program in California.
The Harris County Hospital District has been co-hosting this awareness program of alcohol affects since 2006 with the assistance of local police, firefighters and paramedics throughout the Houston area in various school districts including Spring Branch ISD and Houston ISD.
“We have volunteer students who play the role of victims and a drunk driver; this is performed in front of more than 1,000 juniors and seniors to scare them straight into what can happen if involved in an accident and all the consequences that follow,” said Harris County spokesperson John Martinez.
Following the mock crash, the drunk driver “literally” was arrested, taken to jail and booked, injured passengers were taken to HCHD Ben Taub Hospital and the deceased were taken to the Harris County morgue to make the experience as realistic as possible for all involved.
Unfortunately, small grants previously offered to schools for participating through the TABC program were not available this year, but the commission is active in consulting and assisting in the production of Shattered Dreams. According to Martinez, the mock crash production is all done with volunteer efforts from the school staff, students and public safety personnel, “and is also an excellent way for police and fire departments to conduct their duty for training purposes.”
“Because there wasn’t any research done to show how effective the program is amongst teenagers to deter drunk driving, the state decided to cut funding for the program,” said Joel Estrada, a grant coordinator for TABC.
Nevertheless, community leaders around Texas feel the program continues to have a positive effect and it brings awareness with young people and parents.
Other local high schools like Pearland High School produced a Shattered Dreams version of their own in September 2010. A video of the event can be viewed below.