The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) has awarded a $1,750 highway safety grant to Bryan County High School to enhance their existing Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Chapter.
In the wake of the one year anniversary of the vehicular deaths of BCHS students Heather and Melissa Arthur and Laura Cobb, local school and government officials say they are pleased to receive support from the state in helping to educate local teens on highway safety.
In 2005, 187 of Georgia’s 1,744 crash deaths occurred in teenagers ages 15 to 19.
"This is certainly an important topic right now with what this school has experienced last year in losing three students," Assistant Principal Rod Backman said. "And with prom coming up, we want to make sure students are aware of the dangers of reckless driving and drinking and driving. We appreciate all the help we can get in getting this message across and this grant will certainly help."
"Anything that will help educate our young people to help them be more aware of potential hazardous situations and how to make better choices is a wonderful thing for this community," Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook said. "Teenagers tend to think they are invincible and they need to be made aware of the real dangers that are in front of them."
SADD is run at the high school in conjunction with the Pembroke Police Department. PPD Chief Bill Collins said this grant will "allow us to take the kids to the state SADD conference. They will in turn bring back all the information they can gather about dangerous driving and drug and alcohol abuse in order to share it with other kids in the community."
Collins spoke of some of the other activities that the BCHS SADD program participates in to spread the word about highway safety. This includes a mock car crash and safety checks with PPD as students are leaving the BCHS parking lot. Collins said information about the importance of wearing seat belts and driving safe are given out in lieu of citations. They also have an annual "Ghost-out day" where SADD kids put on ghostly make-up and do not speak or acknowledge their fellow students in order to get folks thinking about what it would be like if their peers were no longer here due to an automobile tragedy.
BCHS prom is April 26, and the PPD and SADD will bring the IMPACT program to BCHS juniors and seniors on April 23-24. On April 25, they will have a mock car crash with a safety check in the afternoon.
Collins said this event was scratched last year out of respect because the students were already all too aware of this possibility due to the loss Cobb and the Arthur sisters. Instead, Collins said the SADD kids, many of whom were friends of the girls, did their best to console and support fellow students who were having trouble coping with the losses.
"That’s just part of what SADD does," Collins said. "We (SADD kids and PPD) were at the candlelight vigil to support the friends and family of the girls. When tragedies occur, SADD is designed to try to pull everyone together and also to try to help avoid a terrible thing like this from happening again in this community."
According to GOHS Director Robert Dallas, "Our state’s teen drivers represent a disproportionate number of drivers involved in crashes that involve injuries and deaths on Georgia’s roadways. We look forward to our SADD Chapters working with their peers to change the perception that crashes are accidents, which can’t be prevented. They can. Our hope is to have every high school student graduate without being involved in a crash or any student being injured or killed in a car crash."