By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
Fifteen teenagers and young adults got a crash course Saturday in the dangers of bad driving habits, learning just how quickly lives can be forever changed by a split-second wrong decision.
For the past three years, Cullman Regional Medical Center has partnered with Cullman County courts to host an interactive trauma prevention class that shows participants the real world consequences of the choices they make behind the wheel.
On Saturday, 15 local teens between the ages of 13 to 22 braved the rain to attend the course. By successfully completed the 4-hour class, the various traffic citations against them will be dismissed. Nearly all the participants’ infractions were for speeding, however two 13-year-olds who attended where there because they allegedly crashed one of their parents’ van into a tree but escaped uninjured. A third 13-year-old involved in the wreck is scheduled to attend the next class in November.
“We’re not here to punish you,” said Dewight Davis, CRMC director of surgical services. “We’re here to show you what we see: the aftermath from car wrecks.”
The statistics paint a grim picture: In nearly half of all fatal wrecks involving young adults between ages 15-20, speeding was a factor while the rest involved a driver with an invalid license or a driver under the age of 21 who was intoxicated at the time of the wreck. In Alabama, car wrecks are the leading cause of death, with 17 traffic fatalities occurring in Cullman County in 2011 alone.
Participants in the class were suited up in cumbersome neck, arm and leg braces and given crutches to get a sense of what it’s like to be immobilized. They watched medical staff simulate emergency treatment of a wreck victim brought in with life-threatening injuries followed by a graphic slideshow of real traumatic injuries.
They also heard the stories from local people who survived near-fatal wrecks, including Phillip Mauler of Cullman who suffered a brain injury and Huntsville residents Brandon Hayden and his girlfriend Charlie Pollard, who also suffered a head injury. Cullman County District Judge Rusty Turner closed the class by laying out what criminal consequences they might face if they didn’t change their driving habits.
“Freedom comes with great responsibility,” CRMC Chaplain Tony Tidwell told the group. “We want you all to make the right decisions because what you do not only affects you; it affects your family and all the other people around you.”
Who: Targeted toward teens and young adults
What: Educates participants about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving and speeding.
When: Next class will be 8 a.m.- noon, Nov. 9
Where: Cullman Regional Medical Center
How much: $50 for court-ordered participants and $25 for residents.
More information: Call 256-737-2600
Tiffeny Owens can be reached email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.