Teens learn consequences of driving under the influence

Isaac Lauffer, 17, a junior at Greencastle-Antrim High School, can't beat the machine as he discovers what it is like to drive under the influence. Andrew Tipton, left, manager of The Save a Life Tour, spoke to students in area schools on making good decisions.

Area students received an in-your-face message about drinking and driving in the past two weeks. The Franklin/Fulton Counties Drug and Alcohol Department brought reality to high schools in Waynesboro, Shippensburg, Fannett Metal, Mercersburg and McConnellsburg, and to the public in Chambersburg and Waynesboro. Evening open houses allowed adults to also participate in the multi-media presentation in the latter two towns.

The Save a Life Tour revealed the effects of alcohol on people who got behind the wheel, and speakers urged students not to do what they already knew was wrong.

Tour spokesman Andrew Tipton, 23, told students at Franklin County Career and Technology Center last Wednesday that he knew the graphic video they had just viewed, with scenes of accidents and emergency rooms, would not alter their behavior.

“People only learn from consequences,” he said.

His own life was peppered with incidents of loved ones convicted of driving under the influence, but they did not cause him to behave responsibly. As a college freshman in Michigan, he partied with two high school friends. After heavy drinking, they drove a pickup truck, intending to go four-wheeling. Instead, they hit a tree, and only the OnStar tracking system alerted rescue personnel to their whereabouts. One teen died instantly of a broken neck, one died three days later and Tipton underwent surgery, receiving 180 stitches. Today he has limited use of one hand.

“Be there for your friends,” he said. “Take the keys.”

Tipton entered rehab and did not finish college. He has been working with Save a Life for the past two and a half years.

His crew hoped to raise alcohol awareness among the thousands of teenagers they would encounter during their visit. Many youth had the opportunity to try a simulator, which mimiced the sensations drunk drivers would encounter.

Casey Stitely, 16, Shippensburg, received a DUI ticket after he finished his sample drive. He had three stop sign violations, three turn signal miscues, and 16 curb collisions within two miles.

Isaac Lauffer, 17, Greencastle, drove 65 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone.

“Look at him,” said FCCTC principal Joseph Conrad. “He almost hit a fire truck.”

Conrad was pleased to host the seminar. When an eighth-grader, he had attended an assembly about wearing seatbelts, and it convinced him to buckle up every time, ever since. He believed it had also saved his life more than once. He was optimistic the presentation would help his students understand potential outcomes.

“This is a terrific event,” he said. “Hopefully, this high impact show will help the kids.”

No G-AHS stop

The tour didn’t stop at Greencastle-Antrim High School. Principal Ed Rife said logistics did not allow it, with the school already experiencing a packed schedule.

“It wasn’t flowing together,” he said. “We set our calendar a year in advance.”

He said the program was good in the sense it presented real life stories about drugs and alcohol. He was working with the county drug and alcohol team to bring in a speaker next year.

“Our partnership is wonderful,” he added. “We’re trying in the future to make these events happen.”

In 2008 G-AHS students involved in Peer Leaders solicited donations from businesses, Antrim Township and the Borough of Greencastle to bring in Save a Life. They raised $4,200 and hosted the event in late February to raise awareness before the May 7 prom.

Rife said this year the school would hold a Wellness Week prior to prom to encourage kids to think and make good choices.

Lauri Ryder, F/FCD&A prevention specialist, said the 2011 Save a Life Tour drew positive responses from the students and schools.

“The assembly was definitely shocking,” she said, “and the followup with the driving — I hope we really reached a lot of kids to think before they drink and drive.”

The $30,000 tour came at no cost to the school districts. The Franklin County Commissioners funded the visit for its schools, and the Fulton County schools received an attorney general grant. Planning for the event began in November, with schools booking dates in January.

“It was worth it if it stopped even one person, young or old, from drinking and driving,” concluded Ryder.