McMinnville Police Department offered a Fatal Vision Session at Warren County High School on Tuesday morning.
“We are going to be speaking to about 150 students today,” said McMinnville Police Department Lt. Mark Mara. “We’ve been offering these sessions twice a year since 2008. We are not only teaching students the dangers of driving impaired, we are teaching them how to recognize that someone is impaired so they won’t get into the vehicle with them. That’s the real danger with these students.”
The sessions are offered to 10th grade students at Warren County High School. During each session, Mara asks students to close their eyes and raise their hand if they have ever gotten into a vehicle with someone who is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
“More than half of them raised their hands that they had gotten into a vehicle with an impaired driver,” Mara said. “My hope is to educate these students so they won’t drive impaired and they won’t get into a vehicle with someone who is impaired.”
In attendance at the event was the District Attorney DUI prosecutor from Lisa Zavogiannis’ office and Tennessee Highway Patrolman Rodney Whiles, who has worked approximately 50 fatal crashes in the past eight years.
Whiles showed pictures of a fatal wreck involving high school student Caitlin Talley, who got into a vehicle with an impaired driver in an effort to get home from a party in October 2012. He encouraged students to reach out for help.
“If you are in a situation like this and you need to get home, tell your parents what’s going on,” said Whiles. “Or, you can call us. We will gladly make sure you get home safe. It’s the hardest part of my job to knock on a door at 2, 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and inform parents that their child is dead. I would rather not have to do that.”
In order for students to understand the dangers of driving impaired, Mara had volunteers wear fatal vision goggles which give the same visual impairment as being legally intoxicated. The volunteers were asked to perform tasks that would have been easy before putting on the goggles, such as picking up items, walking a straight line, or riding a tricycle.
Mara says this portion of the class is meant to be fun and educational.