Eureka High School students will participate in the 2013 prom Saturday night. Local emergency personnel, police officers, firefighters, school leaders and parents want all students to arrive back home safely after a night of celebration. They hope they arrive home in a vehicle, rather than in a body bag.
To remind and show students exactly what's at stake, local authorities hosted a demonstration on the Eureka High parking lot Thursday morning of a mock accident in which a drunk driver hit prom-goers. Students watched as three teenage fatalities were discovered and only one, very injured survivor was airlifted off by the ARCH helicopter team.
This is the 20th year for local emergency crews and law enforcers to host Drunk-U-Drama at Eureka High. Organizers believe they may have been the first, or one of the first in St. Louis, to conduct such a demo.
Eureka Police Chief Michael Wiegand said 2011 statistics were that 218 people in Missouri were killed in accidents involving alcohol, while another 867 were injured.
Every 22 minutes in the United States, someone is killed in an alcohol-related accident, Wiegand told students. "It's mind-boggling. And why are 15 to 24 year olds most susceptible to these type of accidents?"
Eureka High Principal Deborah Asher said 900 to 1,000 senior and junior students witnessed Thursday's mock accident demonstration.
"It was a good performance, and it meant something to me," said Kavita Sharda, a Eureka senior from Wildwood.
"It left an impression about real problems. I hope all students took note of it. I'm glad the school did it."
Another Eureka senior from Eureka, Marisa Passiglia, said the demo carried good messages, and she hoped they were received openingly by all students.
Syd Tockman, a Eureka senior from Wildwood, said it was sobering, and that it got real personal really fast when the parent who had lost his daughter in an accident caused by a drunk driver shared his story.
Eureka senior and resident Nikki Mitchell said more high schools should do demonstrations like this one.
Brian Buchholz, a St. Louis parent who lost his only daughter in an alcohol-related accident in 2007, represented MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and explained to Eureka students how seeing these type of demonstrations brought back a spectrum of memories. She was 21 years old when she eas killed. Return to Eureka-Wildwood Patch for a separate package about his personal story.
Deputy Fire Chief Randy Gabel, Eureka Fire Protection District, said distracted driving from texting also is still a huge contributor to accidents. "Driving is a privilege, but it takes concentration the whole time. If you have passengers in the car with you, have them read your texts to you. Distracted driving can be just as bad as driving under the influence."
Wiegand said he would rather have drivers talking on phones while driving, rather than texting. "It's not worth looking away and trying to text.
Wiegand said they hoped the demonstration made students think about the choices they make behind the wheels of cars. "We're not preaching to you; we're asking you to make good choices. The responsibility is yours.
"Don't let friends drive if they've been drinking or using drugs. Step forward and take the keys. You have to police yourselves."
At Eureka High, these prom-related demonstrations are conducted every other year. Read and see coverage of the demo hosted in 2011: Drunk-U-Drama Encourages Eureka High Schoolers to Stay Alive During Prom Weekend (video)