Paramedics from the Rutherford County EMS transport a ‘patient’ after responding to the simulated two-car crash as part of the ‘Don’t Text and Drive’ program at Stewarts Creek High School.

It’s all a drill until it’s real.

A simulated two-car accident at Stewarts Creek High School in Smyrna on March 19 saw one “fatality,” three “serious injuries” and the “arrest” of the driver of one vehicle for distracted driving.

The simulated accident and the dramatic emergency response was the highlight event for a distracted driving prevention education program arranged by Stewarts Creek High School in cooperation with Vanderbilt University, according to program coordinator Kristi Walker. She isa registered nurse and the Stewarts Creek health sciences teacher.

The participating first responder organizations included Vanderbilt University Medical Center and its Life Flight unit, Rutherford County’s Sheriff’s Office, the Emergency Medical Service and the Special Operations Unit and the Town of Smyrna Police and Fire Departments. In the accident scenario, first responders reacted as they would for a real accident, and treated the scenario as an active training opportunity.

Walker said the first responders were “all in” for the distracted driving accident scenario.

“This was the wrap-up of our ‘Don’t Text and Drive’ distracted driver campaign,” she said. “We wanted to make a real-life scenario for the students to experience. Until they see it for themselves, they don’t really take it to heart.” 

The student organizers included: Meia Kounlavong (event scrapbooker); Lexie Davis, Emily Meyer and Kaitlin Jones (Health Occupation Students of America);and Isis Carico, Kyle Loftus, Hannah Esguerra, Cesar Salinas and Coach Todd Harris acting as victims and other roles in the scenario.

The “accident scene” was in the parking lot of Stewarts Creek High School near the football stadium. The majority of the school’s students watched the first responders, including the initial response by Tennessee Highway Patrol officers. School Resource Officers assigned to the high school and middle school also participated.

Two of the “victims” were transported by Rutherford County EMS ambulances to Vanderbilt with non-life-threatening injuries, and one “victim” was transported by Life Flight helicopter to Vanderbilt, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Dana Calderaro.

The “arrested” driver of the first vehicle told Rutherford County deputies that he was texting his friends at the time of the accident.

A Smyrna Fire Department rescue unit used a Jaws of Life device to get one of the “victims” out of a vehicle. Woodfin Funeral Home participated by sending a hearse to the scene for the “deceased victim.”

Calderaro, who has worked in law enforcement for more than 25 years, said this was a preventable accident.

“It’s not just this accident. Anytime you get behind the wheel, you make choices. Those choices don’t just affect you — they affect everybody around you.” Calderaro said. “These accidents are devastating for families. It’s so devastating, that I have cried with families watching their grief. It has brought me to tears. I am not just a state trooper in uniform, I am a human being that’s seen the death out here, and it needs to stop, it needs to be prevented.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, in 2018 there were more than 18,000 distracted driver traffic crashes in Tennessee, with nearly 1,000 (987) in Rutherford County. From 2008-2018, there were more than 207,000 distracted driver crashes in Tennessee from 2008-2018, with more than 11,000 in Rutherford County.

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