Project Impact Stuns Midlo Sophomores

Project Impact Raises Awareness on the Dangers of Distracted Driving

Photo by: Zinzi Symister
First Responders rush to the scene with a fire hose during Project Impact.

On Wednesday, April 23, 2019, Midlo’s Class of 2021 gathered in the back parking lot to participate in Midlo’s first-ever Project Impact, an organization that travels to high schools to reach new drivers using realistic demonstrations to ensure that teens know the consequences of distracted or impaired driving.

As sophomores made their way to the back parking lot, they encountered a chilling, simulated car accident scene. A broken car sat in the center of the lot, with seemingly unconscious people, portrayed by Midlo students, on the ground, through the windshield, and in the car. The leader of Project Impact, Jerry Harris, from VCU Medical Center, opened the day by posing a scenario; he asked the students to imagine that they killed one of their siblings behind the wheel and were faced with telling their parents. He continued, saying, “Impaired driving is the leading cause of death among teens. This can happen to you.” The crowd grew silent as sirens wailed in the distance. Fire trucks, police cars, and an ambulance soon entered the parking lot, and suddenly, the simulated scene became more realistic.

First responders piled out of the fire trucks and immediately checked on the unconscious students. They used a tool called the “Jaws of Life” in order to wrench open the car door to reach the victims stuck inside. They emphasized that opening a vehicle can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, critical time when a victim is injured or stuck inside the vehicle. After this, they proceeded to cover four students with white sheets, signifying their “deaths.” The driver exited the vehicle with minor injuries, and after a field sobriety test, conducted by Officer McDonough, it was apparent that she was under the influence of alcohol. Because of this, the driver was immediately arrested and escorted away from the traumatic event. This showcased the consequences faced by the impaired driver as she watched her friends die around her.

Then, students moved into Midlo’s gymnasium, in which trauma nurses from VCU prepared to take care of sophomore Greylin Caddell, who acted as an injured victim from the crash. After the paramedics lifted her body on a table, three nurses intervened to try to save her life. All nurses worked tirelessly to save her, but after numerous attempts, Caddell “passed.” Then, they took her lifeless body and placed it in a body bag, and out of respect, took a moment of silence. Chills ran through the bodies of the students as they realized the number of people that impaired driving affects. Not only the family of the victims deal with the grief, but the first responders as well.

Following the scenario, Midlo’s School Resource Officer, Officer Hal McDonough, shared his point of view. “One of the reasons I’ve stayed in Chesterfield is because of the Chesterfield first responders. I know from experience that they’re there, and they do a great job. They care about your family.” He proceeded to talk about the motives of safe driving. He explained that people shouldn’t solely drive safely to avoid a ticket. “If you drive like that, you’re missing the whole point. You guys owe yourself higher ethics and morals.” He urged students to think of the real consequences while on the road.

To conclude the event, Brad Hughes shared his story. He started his talk, stating, “Each and every time we do this presentation, it takes a piece of me with it because I was the person on the table.” In 2014 while he was responding to a car accident, a speeding truck dragged his body across three lanes, severing his leg, and while in the hospital, it was medically necessary to amputate the left leg. Hughes explained that his anger and frustration about the accident later turned into a passion to educate others about the dangers of distracted driving. He shares, “Every move you make can affect everyone around you.”

The new drivers left the event with an newfound perspective on the importance of safe driving. Sophomore Anna Sommardahl reflects on the event by saying,“I feel more aware of what driving under the influence and not putting on your seat belt can do to you and the passengers in the car.” Students left this event with open eyes on the danger of distracted driving. Harris explains his purpose of this project. “I want students to understand the reality of the trauma that occurs when you are distracted or impaired while driving. I want them to go home and tell their parents to lead by example.”