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Chapin High School “Prom PROMise” event effort to demonstrate dangers of drunk driving to students

Highway Patrol Lance Corporal David Jones educates students on driving while intoxicated at Friday assembly at CHS

Chapin, SC (James Bowers) – For many high school students, prom season is the time to spend time with friends, enjoy parties, and have a good time with their friends. While these gatherings can be enjoyable experiences, the addition of alcohol and drugs into the mix can create a dangerous scenario, especially when it’s time to drive home. In 2013, 27% of teen motor vehicle accidents in the United States occurred in April, May, and June, causing 676 fatalities. In SC it seems as if each spring we have some high-profile accident that robs us of some of our best and brightest with their whole lives still ahead of them. The prevalence of fatal crashes during prom season is a tragic trend that schools and parents have spent decades trying to prevent. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety aids in the effort to curb drinking and driving among teens through Prom PROMise events held at the state’s high schools. One such assembly was held on Friday at Chapin High School.

South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Corporal David Jones, the community relations officer for Troop 1, the troop that covers the Midlands, spoke to the students about safety on prom night. He told the gathered students, many of whom will be attending CHS’ prom in just two weeks, about how quickly things can go wrong when they are under the influence of alcohol. Jones said that it’s easily possible for someone to not realize when he is intoxicated, and consequently make the same errors in judgment that a more severely impaired driver would make. The trooper also noted that many teens feel that driving drunk for a short trip of about three miles or less is not as dangerous as driving for several miles on a highway in that condition and explained and stressed to the students that this scenario is statistically when most incidents occur.

Jones selected student volunteers to wear “drunk goggles” that alter the wearer’s vision. These simulate a condition similar to that experienced by an intoxicated person. He challenged these students to walk ten feet in a straight line, a standard part of a field sobriety test. Needless to say, none of these students performed this task successfully.

The students also heard from a young man named Curtis, a Dutch Fork High School alumnus and graduate student at USC-Aiken who, while drinking and driving, caused an accident that claimed the life of a close friend. Curtis faces up to 25 years in prison for this fatal mistake which could certainly take him away from a promising future. Curtis says he hopes sharing his story will keep other young drivers from making the same error he did.

Jones informed the students that it is a crime in South Carolina for those under 21 to consume alcohol and teens that possess a blood alcohol limit of .02 or greater could face criminal penalties. Jones encouraged the audience to resist peer pressure, but said that if they do happen to give in and have a few drinks or are around those who are, to make sure that they do not drive or ride with another intoxicated person. “Call a parent or a sober friend, get an Uber. You can call me. I will make sure you get a ride home. However, if you’re drunk and you’re under 21, I’ll give you a ride, but it’s not going to be back to your house.” Jones added, indicating the criminal nature of underage drinking.

The assembly was only part of the day’s events at Chapin. Students could take a pledge called a “Prom PROMise.”Students who made this pledge were eligible to receive cool items like tickets to a Luke Bryan concert from local radio station 94.3 The Dude or gift cards to Lexington’s Travinia Italian Kitchen. Whether they got such goodies or not, the students took a positive message from the event.“I think (the message of PROM PROMise) is something that needs to be said,” one student remarked.

Lance Corporal Jones says the SCHP tries to hold these functions at as many of the state’s high schools as possible, underscoring the importance of this effort. He himself is charged with conveying to the media the details of many of the fatal crashes that happen in the Midlands and Jones said it would be fine if he never had to fulfill that part of his duties ever again.

For more information on the SCHP PROM PROMise and other safety initiatives, or to find out how you can book a trooper to attend your event, visit facebook.com/scdps.pio.

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