Lusby, MD – It was a crisp April morning. The sun was shining. The seniors who attend Patuxent High School, were just starting to roll in on the buses and in their cars. None would be expecting the wake up call they were about to receive April 23 at 8:30 a.m.
In 1999, this very community lost three teens in a game of ‘chicken’ on Rousby Hall Road. Another driver, the driver of a U-Haul truck, died at the hospital after injuries sustained when a Mustang that had three teens in it, struck him head on. Seven of the 14 victims that died in Calvert that year were under the age of 20. This sparked Calvert County to start their Mock Crash Program. Debbie Jennings has been running this since that tragic year. She has done approximately 40 mock crashes during her tenure.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, 2,086 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes nationally. One in five of those teens involved in the fatal crashes were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to the Chesapeake Region Safety Council, “Typically 16 to 24 year-olds are most at risk of injury or death in motor vehicle crashes across the country, and Chesapeake Region Safety Council focuses much of our efforts to that population.”
So what exactly did these teens see when they walked out to the mock crash area? A total of three vehicles and 6 victims. The scene is set to be Rousby Hall Road at H.G. Truman Road. Two victims died. The at-fault car was the white Ford Focus. The driver of this vehicle smoked weed and drank alcohol at a party before getting behind the wheel, she had two passengers in her car. The driver of this vehicle was speeding, and one passenger was not belted, thus causing her to be ejected and dying on the scene. Her intoxicated state, carelessness, and excessive speed, caused her to be unable to stop before slamming into the drivers side corner of a beige Town Car that was stopped in the right turn lane. The beige Town Car has a driver and a front seat passenger. Upon impact, the beige Town Car is pushed under the trailer of a semi-truck who is coming through the intersection on H.G. Truman Road. The driver dies. The truck driver is uninjured. The driver of the Ford Focus is arrested and charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, underage drinking, driving under the influence and other traffic charges.
In Calvert County this year alone, there have been nine fatalities from traffic accidents. TheBayNet.com spoke with Jennings and asked her, “What would you say to these young kids who may be thinking about doing drugs or consuming alcohol and driving this prom season?” Jennings said, “Teens and young adults often do not recognize that the choices they make can result in significant risk and jeopardize their future, such as scholarships, employment of choice, financial security, freedom, and also their social life.” Jennings went on to say that the Calvert County Highway safety partners have worked collaboratively for nearly 20 years to educate teens and their parents as to the long-term ramifications of poor choices.
The Traffic Safety Council Members responsible for these programs are the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, Chesapeake Region Safety Council, Maryland State Police, Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse. The Traffic Safety Council partnered with the following agencies to make this mock crash possible, Chips Towing, Impact Research, Inc, Solomons Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Calvert County’s Department of Communications and Media, Calvert County Public Schools- School Facilities and Maintenance, Rausch Funeral Home, Positive Alternatives to Death and Dangerous Decisions, Calvert County Control Center, Patuxent High School Administrators, Staff, and drama students, and Calvert County’s Highway Maintenance Division.
The mock crash was re-enacted by the following drama students:
Jon Luc O’Connor(Driver of Town Car, fatal), Laith Tabet (trapped, belted, Town Car passenger), Ashlynn Francetta (Driver of the Ford Focus, belted, uninjured). Emma Croft (Unbelted front passenger of Ford Focus, ejected, fatal), Alexia Smith (Rear seat passenger of Ford Focus, belted, minor injuries).