McMinnville Police Department offered a Fatal Vision Session at Boyd Christian School on Wednesday morning.
“We spoke to about 70 students,” said McMinnville Police Department Lt. Mark Mara. “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. We also want to stress to them that distracted driving can be just as dangerous. We have just as many accidents with impaired driving as we have with distracted driving.”
The guest speaker was Cory Forrest Tate. On Oct. 19, 2012 he was involved in a motor vehicle accident that claimed the life of 17-year-old Caitlin Talley.
“The day started out pretty normal,” said Tate. “Later on that night, I got a call about a party in Van Buren County. Me and my brother took off up there. We were having a good time. We played a few drinking games. One thing led to another and we started doing some pills. Another lady who was there, her friend was leaving. She asked if I would give her a ride home. I told her yeah. We weren’t going to leave anybody stuck there.”
Tate says the night of partying continued until Talley asked to be taken home. Tate, his brother Dakota, and Talley climbed into his Chevy Z71 pickup. The crash occurred when Tate failed to navigate a curve on Spencer Highway (Highway 30) near the Shellsford Road intersection.
The pickup hit several trees before flipping. While none of the three occupants were wearing seatbelts, the Tate brothers were likely saved by deployment of their front-seat airbags. Talley was in the backseat and was ejected.
“The next thing I know I wake up by my brother in a field saying we need to go get help,” said Tate. “I stood up and tried to take a step but I couldn’t walk. He helped me back over to the backseat of the truck. I laid there and he went off trying to get help because we couldn’t find our phones. He ran about three-quarters of a mile down the road to get help.”
Among Tate’s injuries was a broken pelvis, back and jaw, and a lacerated spleen.
“I finally heard sirens coming,” said Tate. “I was life-flighted out.”
Among Tate’s charges were vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular homicide by recklessness, and vehicular assault with a deadly weapon.
Tate warned students their actions, like his, could result in something worse than a charge of driving under the influence.
“When you drive impaired, maybe the worst thing in your mind is that you’ll get pulled over and get a DUI, but that’s nothing to what you have to deal with on a daily basis when you hurt someone,” said Tate.
He was given an eight-year sentence and served 360 days of that before being released and is on pro-bation for the next five years. He was ordered to pay $3,000 in court costs and fines, as well as perform 100 hours of community service.
“I hope I can help prevent one accident by something I’ve said here today,” said Tate.
Also in attendance were Director of Schools Bobby Cox, District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis, and representatives from both the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Tennessee Highway Patrolman Rodney Whiles, who has worked approximately 50 fatal crashes in the past eight years, showed pictures of the fatal wreck involving Tate and the death of Talley.
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 the sessions are meant to be fun and educational. Cox has invited Mara to give the same presentation at Warren County High School.