Mock DWI accident, OHS, 2015

Hartwick Student Again Arranges DWI Awareness Events

April 27, 2016

A Hartwick College student is again working to educate the community on the dangers of drinking and driving. Junior Mikaelan Cucciarre-Stuligross has arranged two programs next month on the College campus to promote DWI awareness.

On Tuesday, May 3 from 5 to 7 p.m., a simulated drunk-driving event will take place on Miller Court near Binder Gymnasium to demonstrate the dangers of driving while intoxicated, as participants navigate a four-wheel utility vehicle through cones on an obstacle course. Attendees can also experience the effects of DWI by trying on a pair of simulation goggles. Student speakers will share their experiences with loss due to drunk driving.

Friday, May 6, at 12:15 p.m. several local agencies – including the Oneonta Police and Fire Departments and Otsego County STOP DWI – will conduct a mock DWI crash in the parking lot near Johnstone Science Center starting at noon. This accident dramatization – complete with wrecked cars, “real-life” injuries, fatalities, arrests, and a funeral – will once again provide a strong visual representation of the pain and loss that results from drunk-driving accidents.

The two Hartwick events – which are free and open to the public – are an expansion of a one-day program Cucciarre-Stuligross organized last year at Oneonta High School. Its success prompted her to bring the message to her own campus.

“Education of the risks of drinking and driving is imperative,” she said. “It is an important message for every age group. This year the focus is on raising awareness among college-age students, because drinking and driving among this population results in approximately 1,700 deaths per year.”

The exercises are meant to serve as vivid, realistic reminders of the dangers of drinking and driving among students as they prepare for traditional end-of-school-year activities.

Friday’s mock crash, in particular, should prove resonant.

During lunchtime, students will come face-to-face with the staged wreck, complete with mangled cars and bloodied victims. Police and fire officials will soon arrive and handle the scene as if it were a real-life DWI incident, arresting a driver, and even removing a deceased passenger in a body bag. The scenario is scripted to provide as close to an actual, real-time DWI experience as possible.

Following the mock crash, a funeral will be held, complete with pall bearers, casket, and hearse. A comprehensive debriefing for attendees will follow, and Peer Helpers from the College’s Fifty-Fifty counseling service and staff from the College’s Counseling Center will be on hand.

This year, Cucciarre-Stuligross again worked with Heidi Tanner, the College’s coordinator of health promotion, to organize the logistics and local partners. For Friday, Bookhout Funeral Home of Oneonta will provide a hearse, body bag, and assistance with the faux funeral. Scavo’s Body Shop of Oneonta will donate the wrecked car, and Netty’s Flowers of Walton and Coddington’s Florist of Oneonta will donate flowers for the funeral.

Members of Hartwick’s Greek Life will portray crash victims, heightening the impact of the message. Rahpheal Duncan ’16 of Alpha Sigma Phi and Noah Jager ’16 of Tau Kappa Epsilon will portray accident victims, while Gamma Phi Delta’s Lucia Davis ’17 will be the “drunk driver.”

Junior Courtney Coons was also instrumental in planning the two-day event, actively involving a wide range of the student body in DWI prevention, and also recruiting Hartwick Facilities and student organizations to donate time and resources.

“I believe that the best learning opportunities are experiences that involve multiple senses,” said Cucciarre-Stuligross. “For example, it is easy to see a flier about drunk driving car accidents and forget about it. However, when a person experiences a mock drunk driving accident – hears the sirens of the emergency vehicles, sees the accident site with bleeding victims, and watches the arrest of the driver, the finality of a death, the grief of the family and friends – it is much more difficult to dismiss the potential consequences. The enacted scene is more likely to replay in the memory of those who watch and make an impact on their future decisions. It could save a life.”

Stuligross hopes to see this type of programming becomes entrenched in the College’s culture.

“The OFD and OPD would love to see this as part of Welcome Weekend for all first year students, in conjunction with the Campus Safety educational sessions and briefing on the student code of conduct,” she said. “It would serve as a powerful reminder for new students to think prior to getting into a situation where they may choose to drive or ride with someone under the influence.”