CHICKASHA, Okla. – October 5, 2023 – On Tuesday, October 3, 2023, the Chickasha Fire Department partnered with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Chickasha Police Department and Survival Flight to host a Mock DUI Event at Chickasha High School. During this event, juniors and seniors watched as four of their classmates acted out an intoxicated driving accident, with CFD, CPD, OHP and Survival Flight responding.
“We do this across the state, and it’s a good visual for kids to see firsthand,” said Lt. Eric Foster with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “A lot of times kids aren’t bothered by it unless it happens to them personally, so this exercise leaves an imprint on their brain.”
During the exercise, students witnessed what happens in the aftermath of a crash, which in this case was a collision involving an intoxicated driver that resulted in multiple injuries and a fatality. They watched the investigation into the arrest of an intoxicated driver, along with first responders treating the injured, a student being declared deceased, and Survival Flight landing and taking off with a critically injured student.
“Hopefully seeing this visual stimulus will keep in their mind that it possibly does have real life consequences other than what you see on TV or in a video game,” said Lt. Jeremy Alexander with the Chickasha Police Department. “I want them to see how first responders have to respond and deal with the situation. That will be more of an impact than us coming out here yelling at them ‘don’t drink and drive’ – that’s been proven to not be very effective.”
Chickasha Fire Chief Tony Samaniego said his department’s goal in organizing the exercise was to have students think twice about driving intoxicated or getting in the vehicle with another person who is driving under the influence.
“We wanted to show the potential impacts of driving while intoxicated,” said Chief Samaniego. “This is something our department deals with on a regular basis, especially during holidays and activities like homecoming, spring break, prom, and graduation – times that should be celebrated, we are having to notify a family that their loved one has been in a DUI-related accident, either they’ve been behind the wheel, in the car, or they have been hit by another driver. We want these tragic accidents to stop with this generation of students.”
Student Jackson Fink was the ‘drunk driver’ in the mock DUI accident. Although he was sober and had not actually caused an accident, he said playing this role made him feel as if he’d really hurt people, and that having to undergo the field sobriety test was scary.
Addison Kennedy, another student, was Fink’s passenger and was thrown through the front windshield. The character she played was pronounced dead on the scene.
“When I could hear them coming up to me and checking for my pulse, my heart started racing – it’s something you never really understand and never have that point of view,” Kennedy said.
Chief Samaniego said the exercise is intended to provide a shock-factor to high school students about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicants.
“It kind of scared me – it opened my eyes a little bit,” student Blake Dominguez said. In this exercise, he was driving the vehicle hit by the drunk driver.
Dominguez’s mom, Patrisha McConnell, was at the Mock DUI Event to watch, and said even though she knew what was going to happen, watching the first responders in action still made her very emotional. McConnell said what hit her the hardest was listening to OHP Troopers talk about having to knock on a parent’s door to tell them their child had been killed.
Chickasha firefighters expressed their desire for students to understand the gravity of the decision to get behind the wheel when they’re intoxicated.
“In my experience being in the fire service for 15 years, I’ve seen many DUI wrecks resulting in fatalities involving teenagers,” said Chickasha Firefighter Travis Triplett, who organized the Mock DUI exercise. “Like I told the students, even one can of beer, you’re going to go to jail at least – hopefully you don’t injure somebody or worse. Every 50 minutes one person in the United States is killed by an intoxicated driver, and that adds up quick. That really hits home for me.”
When asked how this exercise will impact conversations with friends, student Dominique Keeling, who played an injured passenger, said he hopes his classmates will learn from this exercise.
“Seeing the alcohol, how he was acting intoxicated and the accident, that’s stuff that could really happen,” said Keeling. “I hope that everyone learns a little bit from this, you can’t drive intoxicated. I’ll definitely have some conversations with my friends.”
Lt. Foster said that rather than just emphasizing ‘don’t drink and drive,’ OHP’s message is don’t drive intoxicated. Driving under the influence doesn’t mean just alcohol, it includes things that are both illegal and legal, such as prescription medication.
“The important message is that it can happen to you – distracted driving absolutely can happen to you,” said Lt. Foster “It doesn’t have to be alcohol, it can even be prescription medication – any kind of intoxicant can be critically life-changing. It just takes one instant like that where your life is changed, and not only your own life, but hundreds of people around you can be changed forever.”
Triplett said the department plans to host this exercise at least every other year moving forward, so that all students at Chickasha High School can go through the impactful exercise.