Author: Natalie Moll, Student and Sudden Impact Graduate
Driving is the first freedom teenagers often experience.
Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens.
When I was 16 years-old I had my first Sudden Impact experience, and since then, I have never viewed driving the same.
What is Sudden Impact?
Sudden Impact is an interactive program that educates high school sophomores about the dangers of driving impaired, driving without a seat belt, and distracted driving. It is facilitated by the Injury Prevention Program for University Medical Center’s Level 1 Trauma Center and by the Louisiana State Police.
The program also offers mock crashes and mock trials to further educate teenagers on the consequences of reckless driving. It has a big reach. Since the program’s inception 20 years ago, it has been expanded to 16 additional hospital host sites in 9 regions of Louisiana. It is in more than 120 schools.
On day one of Sudden Impact, we were presented a slide show filled with information on the risks of driving without seat belts and driving impaired (at the time, distracted driving wasn’t a large part of the program).
I remember we took an anonymous test before the start of the presentation that asked questions such as:
- How often do you wear your seat belt?
- Would you or have you gotten behind the wheel after having a drink?
Then, we heard from three speakers — a woman from the Trauma Prevention Team, a state trooper, and a woman who had been injured because of a drunk driver — that really ingrained three lessons I still think of when I get behind the wheel:
- Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
- 100 percent of crashes are preventable.
- Seat belts save lives.
Following our three speakers, we took an anonymous post-test that asked the same questions as the previous one. However, when compared to the pre-test, we noticed a 22% increase in responses that aligned with safer driving habits.
For example, one of the questions asked: How often will you wear a seat belt while in a car?During the pre-test, only 64% of students answered “always,” but for the post-test, 97% of students answered “always.”
The Mock Crash
About a year later, I had my second Sudden Impact experience. It was the mock car crash, which stressed the consequences of motor vehicle crashes as a result of impaired driving, distracted driving, and not using seat belts…along with everything that happens next — EMS arrival, the trip to the hospital, the family being notified…the list goes on. While the presentation I went through the year before was eye-opening, the only way to describe the mock crash isINTENSE.
Sudden Impact set up a crash in our faculty parking lot in the morning, and while I knew there was going to be an assembly, I never thought I would have to witness girls I knew hanging out of cars screaming in agony. Although it’s all fake, it’s chilling how real it feels. Watching a classmate being loaded into a coroner’s van while her mother is crying is an image that will forever with me. It reminded me that I have to make the conscious decision to think about the consequences of my actions, especially when driving.
The Injury Prevention Team also returns to some schools three years after the first presentation for an anonymous survey for high school seniors that asks about the effectiveness of the overall program.
97% of the seniors said they felt that Sudden Impact kept them from driving impaired, driving distracted and not using their seat belts as well as practicing safer driving habits.
I’m a college junior now, and I practice safer habits when I’m driving or riding in a car because of the Sudden Impact program. It gave me a true perspective of the dangers that come with driving. I think it was important that I learned the risks of reckless driving the same time I was learning the rules of the road, and it was important for me to hear it from those three speakers. I paid more attention to the things they were saying because they were the ones saying it.
Now, I never get in a car without using the seat belt or while impaired, and I never have to remind my friends who went through the program with me to do the same. It’s because we all understand the consequences of our potential actions…and that may not be the case had we not experienced Sudden Impact.
Remember: 100% of all motor vehicle crashes are preventable. Drive safely, and remember the impact you have while on the road.
About the Author: Natalie Moll
Natalie Moll is a junior at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She is majoring in mass communication with a concentration in public relations and a minor in sociology. Natalie is also a founding member of the Omega chapter of Alpha Delta Pi, where she serves as Sisterhood Chair.