Montgomery High School Juniors and Seniors got a sobering dose of reality today when they participated in the Shattered Lives program on their campus.
First responder agencies, along with school administrators, teachers, parents and students, collaborated to present a realistic scenario of what happens when teenagers make bad choices when behind the wheel of a vehicle.
“We see tragedies like this far too often, and this is one way we can show students what can really happens when they, or their friends, choose to drink, text or take part in other distracting behaviors while driving,” said Montgomery County Hospital District FTO and Shattered Lives Coordinator Brenna Jaszkowiak. “It’s more than just a sad internet or newspaper story; lives are completely changed when we lose a teenager to such a preventable situation.”
Jaszkowiak noted that so far in Texas this year, 436 people have been killed in alcohol-related deaths. The Shattered Lives of Montgomery County began in 1999, and its focus was educating students, and their parents, about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol. However, the program has evolved to encompass other behind-the-wheel dangers including texting and talking on cell phones.
In addition to MCHD, other responder agencies that participated in the event included: Montgomery Fire Department, Lake Conroe Fire Department, Montgomery Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Conroe Regional Hospital, Texas Department of Public Safety, PHI Air Medical and Cashner Funeral Home.
Shattered Lives is a two-day program that begins with students being selected as “victims” and are pulled from their classrooms to participate in the scenario. Once the scene is set, complete with mangled vehicles in a life-like situation, all students are brought to the designated area to experience the event, starting from the 911 call and ending with their fellow classmates being transported to the hospital via ambulance or helicopter or sent to the local “morgue”. The students who “caused” the accident are booked into jail. Then every fifteen minutes throughout the day, certain students are taken from their classrooms and marked as “dead” to represent the statistic that once every 15 minutes someone is affected by an alcohol-related incident.
With each program the student who is intoxicated is transported to the Montgomery County Jail. However, due to the escape earlier in the week and the Sheriff’s Office putting all it’s resources into capturing the escapee, the jail was unavailable.
This is one of the most important phases of the program to allow the students to see the full ramification of their intoxicated driving. Just minutes before Thursday’s program started Sheriff Don Sowell of Grimes County offered his jail and personnel to bring reality back. Troopers transported the two intoxicated students to the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office in Anderson. Once there the booking deputies handled the students just as they would any other inmate.
Parental involvement is key to the program, as they are brought to the scene where their child has been identified as a “victim” in the scenario. Students who have “died” in the event spend the night away from home and return to school the next day to participate in an assembly that wraps up the program. The assembly includes speakers, some of which are students and parents. Counselors are on hand throughout the process to help students with the emotions they encounter as they come to grips with the realities of unsafe driving behaviors.
Each Shattered Lives program costs between $10,000 and $20,000, and the schools involved take part in fundraisers to cover costs. All staff time is donated by local agencies, organizations and businesses. The next two programs are scheduled for April 16 and April 30. To learn more about supporting Shattered Lives or to make a donation, visit their website at www.shatteredlivesmc.com.