Mock DUI Crashes: Scaring Teens Sober, Or Missing The Point?

Follow Bengt

mock DUI crash

mock DUI crash

Enlarge Photo
mock DUI crash

mock DUI crash

Enlarge Photo
Back in the 1950s, driver's ed "scare films" aimed to show the gory aftermath of careless or inattentive driving—spattered blood, twisted sheetmetal, jagged non-safety glass and all—with the narration a mix of the sensational and the solemn.

In recent years, a number of high schools across the country have made drinking-and-driving facts and figures only part of teens' driver's ed program. Many now also include DUI (or DWI) simulators that give teens an idea of how a number of drinks will affect reaction time, as well as accuracy.

Now, in a nod back to the gorefests of the past, it's going a step further: Schools are staging mock DUI crashes to help raise awareness of just how gruesome the aftermath can be. For instance, just a few days before prom night, R.E. Lee High in Staunton, Virginia held a mock head-on collision, with fire and rescue crews participating and live video streams, as victims were extricated from a Jeep Cherokee. Another, near Duluth, Minnesota, staged a gory crash in the high-school parking lot, with the state patrol and local fire department among many taking part. In Pennsylvania, at Pocono Mountain East High School, emergency responders reacted to a mock crash of beer-binging teens; and at Houston High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, students filed outside to see accident victims, including one handcuffed and one 'dead.'

In a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2006 focus-group report on Teen Unsafe Driving Behaviors, the majority said that they could tell when someone was too drunk to drive, or didn't see driving after one or two beers to be an issue. The report authors suggested presenting real statistics, or talking to teens who have been involved in crashes, but they never suggested that dramatic enactments would be effective.

Many of these staged events, associated with local chapters of national drunk-driving awareness groups, hope to raise awareness of the consequences of drinking and driving, but do you think they work to that effect? Or does the melodrama end up working against them in some ways, like those scare-tactic movies of the 1950s? Would we be better off with stricter rules, or a different attitude about alcohol? If you have stories to share, please do!

Follow Us

Comments (8)
  1. Sounds just like those Christianist Halloween "horror houses" that try to scare teens into not having sex, not being gay, etc. And this stuff will probably be just as effective as those seem to be. Hah.

  2. Wow, big surprise, showing teens gore films about other teens getting slashed and gored doesn't work, just like making a teen smoke a whole pack when you catch him/her smoking. I guess we need to do some real parenting, now that quickie solutions failed

  3. Houston is on to something. It probably sensationalizes drinking and driving just as much if not more.

  4. best way to stop youngsers from drink and driving is getting them to drink young- that way drinking is not the big deal they make it to be..

  5. While this strategy has a short-term effect on many teens, as your article points out, the issue that needs to be addressed is the concept that it's OK to drink a little and drive. It's a social behavior which needs to be villified. When more people begin treating lightly drunk drivers the way they treat smokers, we'll be getting somewhere. Just like it became OK to say, "Don't smoke around me", it has to become OK to say, "Don't drink and drive around me." That's why DrinkingAndDriving.Org does not get involved in these re-enactments. We prefer to teach how to prevent drunk driving in the first place. And frankly, with the popularity of mock crashes these days, we can count on other organizations to present the gore of the aftermath while we focus on the behaviors that prevent drunk driving.

  6. Just about everyone today is exposed by movie, television and video games, to staged crashes and the unrealistic explosion that follows. Despite the apparent severity, if the hero is involved, they usually crawl out and walk away. Kids love that stuff.

  7. Show them the REAL DEAL. I watched the films in high school that were real bodies. It had a big effect on me. I never fooled around in cars. I DID NOT want to end up like what I saw. If it had been fake, it would not have made an impact, just like TV doesn't make a difference. Let them see the smashed heads, split open torsos, half shut eyes with no life in them,,,,,,THAT is what can happen. I have always been a safe driver and have been a State Trooper for over 12 years. Shock them with reality.

  8. I was involved in my high school's mock crash and while it may not have impacted every single student, it definitley made a difference. Two of my friends were the ones who "died" in the crash. I knew it was fake, but at the time it seemed incredibly real, and it was awful. Mock crashes might be considered ineffective or scare tactics that will never work. But believe me, I will never drink and drive. And if mock collisions keep even one person from making the choice to drink and drive, then they have made a difference.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Take Us With You!


Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Research New Cars


Related Used Listings

Browse used listings in your area.

© 2015 MotorAuthority. All Rights Reserved. MotorAuthority is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.