Kickapoo students encouraged to take the “Chief Challenge” pledging to buckle-up and keep phones down while driving

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 6:53 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - People driving by Springfield Kickapoo’s parking lot on Monday may have been a little taken back at the site of a firetruck, ambulance, hearse, emergency workers and students gathered around a two-car crash.

But it wasn’t real.

Over the decades school districts went to great lengths to warn students about the importance of driving safely, using everything from graphic movies of traffic accident aftermaths to recreating crash scenes in-person so students could see first-hand the trauma and emotional turmoil that can come from a split-second bad decision or inattention.

But times have changed.

“We’ve not had a mock crash or this kind of docudrama in Springfield in at least the last six years,” said Kickapoo Resource Officer Dennis Goss. “So with today being National Seatbelt Day we thought we’d do a mock crash with the Springfield Fire Department, Cox EMS and Greenlawn Funeral Home to encourage the students to wear their seatbelts and stay off their phones.”

Different classes from the 2,100 Kickapoo student population would be brought outside during the morning hours for the presentation which started with a pre-crash scene. There the students would be introduced to the scenario where four teenagers are in a silver car. A male passenger in the back is wearing a seatbelt while a male passenger in the front is not. The female driver is buckled-up but using her cellphone as is the unbuckled passenger in the back.

The students are then taken to the crash site where the silver car has been involved in an wreck with another car and crashed into a light pole.

As emergency personnel arrive on the scene, they find that the male passenger in the back who was wearing a seatbelt is O.K. while the unbuckled girl in the back is injured and taken to the hospital while the boy in the front without a seatbelt does not survive.

That passenger was played by Caden Davenport, who spent three hours getting placed over-and-over again inside a body bag and loaded into a hearse.

“I can’t imagine how my parents and family would react to this,” he said. “Because one decision can change a whole bunch of people’s lives. And not just the person who died.”

Chloe Huffman played the distraught driver who didn’t suffer any injuries because she was wearing her seatbelt but was arrested and taken into custody at the scene because her distracted driving caused a fatal wreck.

Chloe admitted that even though the crash was fake, she felt the emotions of going through the incident.

“I feel like it’s survivor’s guilt partially,” she explained. “It was your fault. You lived. And they died.”

For at least some students watching the event, the message did hit home.

“It was scary and traumatizing,” said Kacey Van Amber. “I would have been a little freaked out.”

“I feel like that could have been any of us,” added fellow student Karlie Horstman. “Personally I’m always on my phone but I know when I start driving I will not be on my phone because I know the consequences.”

Some of the students are just now starting to drive and hopefully learning that with privilege and freedom comes expectations as well.

“I know it’s a lot of responsibility,” said sophomore Beau Benton, who’ll be getting his driver’s license in two weeks. “I know it’s exciting but you have to be cautious and careful.”

“My sister got in a car accident once and while she was fine her car was totaled,” said fellow sophomore Lorynn Seymour. “So I know I need to be a good driver to handle those situations and I always have my seatbelt on when I’m in the car.”

Goss was glad to hear that because he passed out “Chief Challenge” contracts for the students to sign.

“These are safe driving contracts to take home to their parents,” he said. “It says that driving is a big responsibility and that you agree to follow traffic laws, wear a seatbelt and make sure my passengers are wearing a seatbelt. It also says that you will not use your phone for talking, texting, social media or any other purpose while operating a motor vehicle.”

Obviously not everyone will sign the contract and during the mock crash scene you could hear some students laughing and see others not paying attention.

“The message that we’re sending is a real message,” Davenport said. “It kind of worries me that some people might not be taking it seriously. But even if one person does take it seriously that’s one more person who wears their seatbelt. And that to me is a good enough reason to be out here for several hours in the cold.”

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