Robert Padron, far left, calls for help after a mock accident involving driver Chris McLeod, 17, a student at Clayton High School, while Brianna Matthews, in the black sweatshirt consoles her friend Gabby Hardison whose sister acted as the victim who died in the simulated crash that took place in front of Clayton High School.
CLAYTON -- As a father to two teenagers, Richard McLeod knows first hand the anxiety parents have when setting their teens off on the roads, fears of a danger zone filled with texting, speeding, and drunk driving.
So the idea of adding another element to that dangerous mix, such as driving on prom night, is occasion enough for him to spend time showing teens what it actually looks like to be in an accident.
McLeod has seen his fair share of accidents. He has been an EMS worker for 13 years in Johnston County. Over the weekend, he staged a crash demo in front of Clayton High School to give a loud reminder to teens to pay attention and drive safely.
“We wanted to have an accident scene that the kids would be familiar with and that would hit home for them,” said McLeod. Instead of staging the crash on a back road, or on the highway, the crash took place in front of a building the students go to everyday.
McLeod’s son took part in the crash demonstration. Chris McLeod, 17, was shown driving his truck, hurrying to try to get out of school. The day he is acting out is supposed to be the day of prom. His son is texting while driving, making plans to meet up with his friends, rushing to pick up flowers for his date, then he runs over one of his fellow students in front of the school in the middle of the afternoon. The student dies.
Gabby Hardison, a Clayton High School senior played the part of the victim who died in the crash. Her sister, Brianna Hardison, was also in the demonstration, and had to act out what it’d be like if her sister had really been killed in a crash.
Joanna Wood, a teacher at Clayton High who helped with the demonstration, said it was an emotional day for the students involved. Even though it was a demonstration, the seriousness of the situation didn’t escape the students, especially since two were actually family.
Unlike crash demonstrations in the past, McLeod filmed this demo so that he could show it to a wider audience. The plan is to show the video to the entire school on the day of prom. For that reason, it didn’t matter that the demonstration was on a weekend when many teenagers were at home and couldn’t see the live accident.
Johnston County EMS, the fire department, and the Clayton police were all on scene to respond to the accident.
“What I want to show is that we’re all one, we’re all for the same thing and that’s the safety of our teenage drivers,” said McLeod.
Teen driving safety
Johnston County has a tragic past of several teen driving fatalities, according to State Highway Patrol First Sergeant Jeff Gordon. From 2006-2010, there were 32 teen driving fatalities in Johnston County, ranking it in second in the state for the number of teen driving fatalities during that period, behind Wake County with 37. In 2007, Johnston County was at the top of that dubious list 11.
There has been a decrease in teen driving deaths in the past couple years, said Gordon, which he attributes to the teen driving education programs now at each high school in the county. Last year, there were two teen driving fatalities in Johnston County. There were also two teen driving fatalities in 2011.
According to McLeod, if he can just reach one person, and save one life, then the demo will have been a success.