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As Prom Draws Near, Multiple Agencies Step Up to Reduce Teen DUI Fatalities

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

The expression “it takes a village” was on clear display in Washington, Ill., on Thursday.

Multiple agencies and businesses in the community pitched in to warn Washington High School students about the risks of drunk and driving through a DUI crash reenactment. A nearby florist shop donated corsages and boutonnieres for the prom night actors, and a local dry cleaner stepped in to take care of the formal attire, now stained with bloody stage makeup.

Each student actor plays a different role, the most gruesome being a student, Kenna Beard, playing dead on the hood of the crashed vehicle.

Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio
Senior Kenna Beard gives a thumbs up to indicate she's okay, though a bit chilly, wearing a prom gown on a 45 degree morning.

“At the end, we will have the coroner come out, as well as the funeral home, and they will be taking her away,” ThinkFirst coordinator Lisa Maynard said. “She’s brave enough to be put in a body bag that is unused, and she will be escorted with a hearse out.”

The ThinkFirst Program at the OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute has been facilitating these simulations for more than two decades to reduce the incidence of DUI deaths in teens.

Statistics compiled since the 1980s show fatalities from drunken driving have dropped by more than 50-percent. But they still account for about a third of all vehicle traffic fatalities.

“I’ve been an officer for ten years and I’ve had cases, where I’ve talked to kids, and a week later, they’re dead from a DUI accident, and the driver doesn’t die,” School Resource Officer Troi Westbrook said. “No one needs that on their conscience.”

The simulation at Washington Community High School is one of several taking place in the region, ahead of prom season. Agencies involved in the reenactment include the Illinois State Police, American Red Cross and the Washington Fire Department and Rescue Squad.