Mock Car Accident at Kimball High School Shows Consequences of Impaired and Distracted Driving

KIMBALL, Neb., – Kimball High School was the scene of a simulated car accident Tuesday morning, and the students became witnesses to the impact impaired and distracted driving can have on students, their school, their families, and the community.

The morning-long event was planned and implemented by Regional West Health Services, Kimball Health Services, Kimball High School, Schadegg Motors, Kimball Volunteer Fire Department, Kimball Police Department, Kimball County Sheriff’s office, Cantrell Funeral Home, and Western Nebraska Community College, utilizing the national “Every 15 Minutes Program” to dramatically instill in high school students the potentially dangerous consequences of impaired and distracted driving.

The school day began without fanfare as students gathered in the auditorium to hear a presentation by retired state trooper Chuck Elley about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. Elley’s program included videos and photos of horrific motor vehicle accidents nationwide and some he responded to locally. The presentation was interrupted by the announcement of a car accident near the high school.

The students were directed outside to a nearby street where they saw two wrecked cars, one of which was resting on its side. Student actors role played the part of injured, dying, and deceased passengers. One by one, first responders arrived on the scene as if reacting to a real life event: first law enforcement, then the fire department, emergency medical services, and finally, a hearse.

When the students returned to the high school auditorium, they watched a video of the student actors being treated at Kimball Health Services Emergency Department. It was filmed in advance and produced by Madison Wynne and Carli Wurdeman, who portrayed the students who were killed in the mock accident. Alex Reader and Kate Reader also assisted in planning the event and videotaping the hospital scene.

The dramatization continued as the actors, in full makeup depicting their injuries, appeared on stage. Wynne and Wurdeman lay on the ground covered by a sheet. Devin Gardner, who portrayed the driver who caused the mock accident, was escorted by the police chief and a deputy sheriff to the front of the auditorium in an orange prison uniform, handcuffs, and shackles. According to the script, he was charged with homicide as a result of drunk driving and texting while driving.

Special services director Jamie Soper read a letter from Gardner expressing his regret and sorrow over the death of his friends. Rev. Kenneth Mars of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Kimball read obituaries for deceased. The girls’ mothers read letters they had written to share their grief and anger about the accident. In the audience, students sat silently and listened attentively as some wiped away tears.

The program ended with a discussion of the event and debriefing by Regional West staff members and trauma surgeon Rommie Hughes, MD. Students were advised to contact their counselors if they want to privately discuss the impact of the day’s dramatization.

The mock accident event was proposed and coordinated within the school by members of the Kimball Prevention Coalition, including school counselor Chauncey Pedersen and special services director Jamie Soper. Student actors included Madison Wynne, Carli Wurdeman, Devin Gardner, Kennedy Lewis, Jaden Mohr, and Nicolas Thomas-Lewis. The event was coordinated through Regional West Trauma Services department by trauma coordinator Susan Wilson and education coordinator Dallas Schaffer.

As Kimball High School prepares for prom on Saturday night, the dramatization was a stark reminder that distracted and impaired driving can change and destroy lives in an instant.

“We thought a presentation like this would be more impactful than a lecture about safe driving,” said Wurdeman. “We knew some students would think it was a joke, but all we wanted is for it to affect even one person. If it does, it will be worth it.”

Regional West Health Services in Scottsbluff, Neb., is the parent company of Regional West Medical Center, a 182-bed regional referral center and one of three Level II Trauma Centers in the state. As the region’s only tertiary referral medical center, Regional West offers care that spans more than 32 medical specialties provided by over 28 physician clinics. With nearly 300 providers, and over 2,000 employees, Regional West provides comprehensive and innovative health care services for the people of western Nebraska and the neighboring states of Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming.