Efforts to reduce teen crashes in Sullivan County include simulation program
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Just this year, 55 teens in Tennessee have been killed in crashes. According to Tennessee Highway Patrol, four of those happened in our region. Now, one of our local counties is putting kids in the driver's seat in attempt to change that. "Ruptured lungs, broken spleen, broken liver, and a head injury," Trevor Perry told News 5 of the fake injuries he received during a impaired-driving simulation.
Of course, these are not injuries the Sullivan East senior has ever had to endure, it is just part of a new program. The Sullivan County Sheriff's Office is showing students just how dangerous it could be to get behind the wheel impaired. Perry told me it struck a cord with him because a family member just received similar injuries in an actual crash. "This could have been me. I could have been in the same situation as him. I could have been in the same pain," he said. The sheriff's department is partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office and Wellmont to simulate different scenarios. They are graded on their performance, then given the results. "In that car, both the elderly couple were killed. You also received a lot of facial fractures and rib fractures," Carol Jones said. She works with Holston Valley Medical Center as an Injury Prevention and Response Coordinator. Law enforcement give students a pair of goggles that simulate different levels of intoxication or drugs, and they even simulate texting while driving. "The ultimate goal is to save people's lives and prevent injury," Sullivan County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris McDavid said. McDavid tells me Sullivan County has one of the highest teen crash rates in the state. According to the highway safety office, there were more than 1,500 crashes involving teens in the county last year. A continuing problem among drivers is distracted driving. "It could be somebody that could be eating while driving down the road, listening to the radio or doing something inside the car to where they're not totally focused on their driving," McDavid said. Just this year alone, Tennessee Highway Patrol lists 481 crashes in Sullivan County where distractions have been listed as a factor. It is something the teens even got to test for themselves. "Just in the blink of an eye, if you swerve the wrong way, at the wrong time you can go off the road or anything," Sullivan East senior Isaiah Key said. The sheriff's office told us they are visiting all the county high schools this week, but they want to be able to work with other teens. If you know a group that might be interested, you can contact the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.