Mock 'accident' dramatizes effects of driving drunk

October 20, 2003|EMILY BURTON

HARRODSBURG - Two crumpled cars, their passengers bleeding and disoriented from the impact of a head-on collision, rested in the foggy Wal-Mart parking lot.

Within minutes, a barrage of flashing lights pulled into the lot. Shoppers in mini-vans drove slowly by, watching the Jaws of Life rip the door off the battered Chevy Nova, an Eric Clapton tape still in the deck.

As rescue workers extracted one driver, a half-empty bottle of Crown Royal rolled around at his feet. He was arrested for driving under the influence even as his passenger was fitted with a neck brace.

"It kind of hurts, getting arrested, when they throw you against the car," said "driver" Jamie Goodpaster, smiling from the back of the Harrodsburg police cruiser.


Goodpaster had reason to smile. He and his fellow accident "victims" were actually actors participating in Wal-Mart's annual mock accident demonstration. The demolished cars, parked outside the store, were donated by local mechanic shops to be used in the training exercise for Harrodsburg and Mercer County fire, police and EMS personnel.

"This is as pretty realistic as you can get ... it's a chance for all the departments to work together," said Don Smith, Harrodsburg fireman and wreck director.

The "accident" was just one of several safety demonstrations being held at the Harrodsburg Wal-Mart this month.

Wal-Mart Safety Board member Patricia Hume said the various activities were staged to help the community think safety.

"Wal-Mart has made October our safety month, and we just do different activities throughout the month to try and promote safety for our associates as well as our customers," said Hume. "We thought that a mock wreck would give the public an idea of what happens (at a wreck) and what fire and rescue workers do each day."

Stacy West watched with her two sons as sheets were draped over struggling "victims" to protect them from the extraction tool while it peeled back the roof of the Nova.

"I'm glad I saw it, it's teaching the boys a lesson," said West. Her son, Austin, said seeing the wreck taught him "not to drive drunk," an important lesson in the face of staggering statistics regarding alcohol-related accidents.

About one-third of car accidents involve alcohol, estimated Harrodsburg policeman Gerald Wooldridge. Wooldridge said he hoped showing the damage drunken driving could do would help prevent future accidents.

"If they see it (the accident), they'll have mixed feelings about what's going on and they will have second thoughts about getting behind the wheel intoxicated," said Wooldridge.

From the patrol car, Wooldridge watched the last bleeding "accident" survivor being loaded into a flashing ambulance, their head, arms and legs strapped to a narrow body board. Now 30 minutes after it started, the "accident" rescue was finished.

What wreckage was left could not be called cars. Smashed windshields lay in sea-green chunks of glass around mangled doors. The Nova had become a makeshift convertible, its roof peeled back to allow the rescue of a passenger.

Victim actor Brian Sexton wiped the fake blood from his face and hands as fire and EMS crews posed for pictures atop the wreckage.

"It (participating) wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Sexton said, "But I hope I'm never really in a wreck, in that whole situation."

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