The Pembroke Police Department’s IMPACT program is making and impact in other cities in the area. The program is designed to teach young people about safe driving.
What started as a project strictly for the city of Pembroke has branched out to where it is now a permanent fixture in the driver’s education programs at both Richmond Hill High School and Tattnall County High School. In addition, the program travels to other areas spreading the word about highway safety. In March, IMPACT will be in Claxton and at Southeast Bulloch.
Penboke Police Chief Bill Collins, who created the program six years ago with PPD clerk Susan Crowe, said this outreach effort is an attempt to save lives. Their idea was helped to become a reality when they received a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
"My greatest desire is to provide everything we can to facilitate driver’s safety to as many young people as we can and not lose our kids to traffic accidents," Collins said. "There are a lot of challenges for kids out there and it’s our goal with this program to give them the guidance and the education necessary for them not to become a statistic."IMPACT stands for Empowered Minds Preventing Auto Crashes of Teens – named by the Pembroke Students Against Dangerous Decisions (S.A.D.D.) kids. The program consists of activities such as a mock sobriety test and a DUI simulation aided by golf carts and Fatal Vision goggles, which replicate the appearance of being drunk.
private donations have helped supply the program with golf carts, a 24-foot trailer to carry them and most of the materials. Recently, a $10,000 grant from the local Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has allotted for the department to purchase a truck to pull the trailer.
The Department is paying out of pocket for labor and equipment use. This entails several members of the PPD instructing the program. Collins said he strains the department’s resources as much as possible in order to reach as many areas as he can. Locally, IMPACT gets help from the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department when in North Bryan and from BCSD and RHPD in South Bryan.
"So many departments and schools have helped us," Collins said. "And all the feedback has been enormously positive. I appreciate the school systems letting us come to the schools because. It’s good to know that this issue is important to them also."
Pembroke City Councilman Johnnie Miller is also a driver’s education teacher at Tattnall County High School. He was instrumental in connecting the school with IMPACT. He said the program has greatly enhanced his class – not only by gaining access to IMPACT, but simply implementing the program paved the way for a $30,000 grant to purchase equipment such as driving simulators. Miller said the PPD also helped TCHS start up a S.A.D.D. group which now has close to 200 members.
During prom week, Miller said Pembroke teen Jack Barfield, who is doing time after being charged with reckless driving and the vehicular homicide deaths of a Bryan County school teacher and her young son, spoke to students. He said it was very emotional for the kids and had a profound impact on them.
Miller said IMPACT is more relevant now than it ever has been because of new laws such as the Joshua Law which requires all young people to attend a driver’s education class before receiving a license and the zero tolerance law for alcohol.
"I’m so grateful for my relationship with the Pembroke Police Department and my friendship with Bill which has opened the door to so many things for my class," Miller said. "IMPACT is a real learning experience and it’s also fun for the kids."
Collins said IMPACT is growing every year "and it will probably outgrow me."
He said PPD will put in a grant next year to create a program to reach middle school level kids about the awareness of driving laws.