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Posted on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Chelsea High School seniors experience sobering simulation of drunken-driving crash

By Lisa Allmendinger


A car on its side with a victim trapped inside was one of the simulated car crash scenes Chelsea High School seniors witnessed Friday during a Young Adult Driver's Awareness program coordinated by the Chelsea Area Fire Authority.

Lisa Allmendinger |

With senior prom and graduation approaching, about 200 Chelsea High School seniors were given an eye-opening demonstration of what can happen during a drunken-driving accident.

Chelsea Area Fire Chief Jim Payeur reminded the students that 6,000 teens are killed in auto accidents in the United States each year and that alcohol plays a large part in those wrecks.

So, too, has distracted driving, said Fire Capt. Chris Smyth. Cell phones and texting while driving are among the top ten causes of accidents.

“Using a cell phone while driving is akin to an alcohol level of .08,” he said.

And Chelsea’s had its share of teen lives lost in car accidents. About nine students have lost their lives in accidents since 2000, several the result of drunken driving.

“Hopefully they’ll have a safe prom and graduation,” said firefighter Roger Chapman, who was instrumental in putting the special program together. “We’d rather meet them this way,” than in a car crash, he said.


Chelsea Area firefighters extricate a "victim" from a car.

Lisa Allmendinger |

What really hit home with the students was the simulated crash scene in a nearby parking lot, complete with numerous fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and a helicopter that landed while they watched.

“This is surreal and scary,” said Charlie McCalla, while looking out at the carnage in the parking lot.

Chelsea High School Principal Julie Deppner said, “The feedback I’ve gotten is this was very powerful. It hits close to home for a lot of these kids.”

In fact, she said, several asked not to attend the simulation.

“It really shows what happens at a crash scene,” said Samantha Brown.

Students were extricated from vehicles; covered in “blood,” the driver of the car who caused the accident was given a sobriety test. A dead body was wrapped in a body bag before being lifted onto a gurney and wheeled away.


A "body" is rolled into a body bag following a simulated accident at Chelsea High School Friday afternoon.

Lisa Allmendinger |

“This is crazy,” said Lauren Gray, while her friend, Brooke Gier, called it “intense.”

When asked if the exercise made an impression on them, the young women said it had.

“The body bag brought it home,” said Joe Linteau. “Especially when there’s someone in it that you know.”

Tori Stevens said it was “scary to see people we know in an accident,” while Natalie Kaczorowski said, “This is creepy. You can see how it (an accident) would happen and unfold.”

Travis Reece, a fullback for the Michigan State football team from 1994-98, told the seniors, “You have a choice and if you know your friends have been drinking, get out of the car; live to see another day.”

He said growing up in Detroit, even at 16 years old, he could walk into a liquor store and buy beer. No one carded him.


Chelsea High School seniors watch as Chelsea Area Fire Authority firefighters work to get a "victim" out of a wrecked car.

Lisa Allmendinger |

He said he drank after every football game at parties and he caused a lot of trouble, got into fights and caused an estimated $40,000 in damage before Head Football Coach Nick Saban, “took me into his office and was going to get rid of me because of all the problems I’d caused because of my drinking.”

That was a turning point, he said. He changed his ways, went on to play NFL football for several teams including the Detroit Lions, and is now an advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

He told the students that a DUI would remain on their record for a long time. “It will hurt you going to college and it will hurt you getting a job,” he said.

Plus, he said it will cost about $5,000.

“Chelsea, over the years, has seen a number of teen-related deaths,” Payeur said. “If you get behind that wheel, you are responsible for everyone in the car.”

And he knows from first-hand experience. "If these kids could see what we've seen ..." he said.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter with She can be reached at For more Chelsea stories, visit our Chelsea page.



Sun, May 1, 2011 : 8:20 a.m.

This should not just be an exercise for those in a vehicle with an impaired driver - it should be about other drivers who may be impaired too. A few years ago my son was hit by a presumably impaired driver as he made a legal left turn with blinker at an intersection with no light or stop sign. The other driver opted to pass him in the intersection because he had slowed down. My son was hit in the driver side door, the vehicle flipped, the windshield popped out, and then his vehicle skidded on the roof into a roadside gully while the roof caved in. His life was saved by several things: he was wearing a seat belt, his seat unhinged/broke so he was lying flat in the vehicle, and luck. The other driver waited until he crawled out of the only possible opening to see if he was OK, an opening so small that most people could not have gotten through it. They exchanged contact information (tying the man to the scene) and my son said he was going to walk home. The other driver left on foot, his disabled vehicle in the cornfield beyond. I will never forget my son coming home and saying, "I am fine; the car is totaled". We called 911 but the other driver was long gone and could not be charged. What if my son had not managed the walk home and had internal bleeding or other injuries? Would we have found him later after he was due home, dead in the road? Watch out for the other driver. It could be deadly.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

Why did Chelsea limit this to seniors only? This would have been more effective if the entire school were included. There are sophmores and juniors who drive, and there are kids who can't yet drive but won't hesitate to get into a car with an older student. Drunk and distracted driving aren't limited to just senior students. Seems to me that limiting this to a small subset of the school is a waste of money.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 4:06 a.m.

I have a few photo's of the remainder of my old car after a sibling crashed it in a drunk driving accident, and nearly killed himself. I would love to donate those for future use if anyone thought they might be helpful. They are a bit gory, but it's frightening to see how a sturdy looking car becomes a shredded metal trap within moments.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 2:22 a.m.

Both Pioneer and Huron do or at least to do this same simulation but for the entire school. It really is an emotional scene and event that affects many students. I can only hope Skyline begins this next year. As a graduate of Pioneer I was able to see this my sophomore year and I still think about it today. It hits all students in different ways and I believe is hands down one of the best and most meaningful experiences from my 4 years of high school. I hope even with the economy today that this event can continue and students can continue to be educated!


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

I have always felt the seeing consequences first hand has tremendous inpact. KUDOS to Chelsea for having the guts to provide this amazing "real life' experience. Even if it affects ONE teen-wow! I'd hope it'd be MY teen!!!

tom swift jr.

Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

The prevention community has pretty much decided that these tactics are not effective in reducing drunk driving by teens, but it makes for great theater....


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

I remember reading that these types of scenarios and the "shock" videos drivers' ed programs often use are effective for a few days, but wear off quickly as they (and their effects) fade into the past.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 2:52 a.m.

Do you have any names for these people in the "prevention community"? Or are they just "they"?


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 2:50 a.m.

Can you offer any alternatives?