Schools gauge drunken driving

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Middle and high school students may be a little too smart for their own good.

Some Hayden students had a hard time taking serious a mock rescue of students involved in a drunken-driving accident Monday.

Getting students to think about the human cost of illegal drug and alcohol use is the aim of activities planned at Hayden schools throughout the week. Red Ribbon Week is a national drug awareness campaign established 20 years ago in memory of Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. Camarena was a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico. Not enough people understand the tragic roots that spurred the very positive prevention campaign, said teacher Tina Frentress, co-chair of the Red Ribbon Committee at Hayden Valley Elementary School. "There's just been kind of a delusion about what it is," she said. Each day, there will be a mini-theme relating to drug and alcohol awareness at the school. Hayden Police Officer Gordon Booco will tell Camarena's story to the students, and Hayden High School students will lead children in crafts and other activities. The students will have a door-decorating contest that will be judged by representatives of Mountain Valley Bank. The business will provide a pizza party to the winning class. Ideally, Red Ribbon Week is a communitywide project, Frentress said. Activities at Hayden Middle School also will focus on how bad decisions can result in tragedy. The Grim Reaper will be visiting classrooms and taking away volunteers, who later will return with white-painted faces -- representing that someone dies every 15 minutes in drunk-driving accidents, dean of students Gina Zabel said. This year, the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition chose the middle school as the focus school for Red Ribbon Week. The organization gave the school $1,000 to spend on related activities. Those funds helped pay for Jeff Yalden, a guest speaker and youth life coach, who spoke to students earlier this month. -- Hayden Valley Press

The Hayden Police Depart-ment, Colorado State Patrol and West Routt Fire Department participated in the staged car wreck as part of Red Ribbon Week, a national illegal drug awareness campaign.

Some school districts and communities also use the campaign to emphasize the dangers of alcohol use.

Several Hayden High School students volunteered to act as victims in the crash, staged in a beater car donated to the senior class for homecoming. Students gathered in the parking lot as sirens blared and several fire trucks arrived at the scene.

Several volunteers, spattered with very real looking lacerations and blood, were unconscious in the car.

One student, an apparent fatality, was pulled from the car and covered in a blanket. Rescuers worked for 15 minutes cutting another victim from the back seat.

Meanwhile, a dazed student with a cut on his head stumbled through a roadside test with troopers. Minutes later, he was face down on the pavement and handcuffed.

As dramatic as it was, students knew the scene was not real.

That was the point -- organizers don't want students to ever be in the real situation, counselor Danica Moss said.

"We hope they take away that this is the ultimate consequence," she said.

Some students suspended disbelief long enough to imagine the real tragedy of friends or classmates involved in such an accident.

"They basically are saying it can happen anywhere to anybody," freshman Melissa Geis said.

A horrific accident near Fort Collins on Saturday may have emphasized that reality all too clearly: Three young men, ages 19 and 20, were killed when their car slammed into a stand of cottonwood trees next to a county road, The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported.

The car apparently was traveling 100 mph before the accident, and state patrol investigators think alcohol and/or drugs were involved, according to reports.

Although social drinking among teenagers always has been an issue, students lately are taking it to a more dangerous level by binge drinking, Hayden Police Officer Gordon Booco said.

"It's the way they are doing it that's more of a problem," he said.

Since summer, Booco has seen several situations involving teens so intoxicated that if their parents hadn't come to the scene, he would have called ambulances.

After the staged car wreck, Hayden middle and high schools stressed their message with a three-screen presentation by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

If the staged accident elicits just a little thought among students, it was effective, freshman Chelsea Cassler said.

"I think if they didn't do it we wouldn't think about it at all," she said.

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