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Mock DWI crash shows Canton students dangers of drunken driving, cellphone use

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CANTON — Looking at their friend’s lifeless body draped across the hood of a pickup truck, students in the Canton Central School District experienced a grim reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Add in texting or talking on a cellphone and the risk of an accident is even greater, they learned at a mock DWI crash staged in front of Hugh C. Williams High School.

Students in grades seven to 12 gathered on the sidelines to watched Canton rescue workers deal with the aftermath of the pretend two-vehicle collision with two people dead and three injured.

Police officers, a local judge and a driver from O’Leary Funeral Services participated in the 30-minute performance. Adding to the effect were empty beer cans strewn on the driveway and pools of fake blood.

Makenzie L. Knowlden, 15, said showing students what can happen is more powerful than a classroom lecture.

“It’s a lot more graphic than people just talking to us,” the sophomore said. “I think a lot of students are drinking, but not a lot are putting themselves in the position where they’re driving.”

With high school proms and graduation celebrations coming, St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Coordinator Michele J. James is making the rounds to deliver a message that could save lives.

She urged students to avoid getting behind the wheel with a drunken or drugged-up driver.

“Don’t ever assume your driver is sober. We want to make sure you are safe,” Ms. James said. “Please make sure your driver is sober at all times.”

Jack G. Townsend, a Canton crossing guard who works in front of the school, circulated through the crowd of students. He reminded them not to use their cellphones while driving. He said it’s a problem he sees too often.

“About every third car, I see a high school student texting or talking on their cellphone,” Mr. Townsend said.

He warned students, “If you veer off, someone may have to go to your parents and say you’re not coming home. It’s up to you, but that’s what can happen.”

Chantel H. Rose, a junior who played the role of the drunken driver who was using her cellphone, was arraigned in front of Pierrepont Town Justice Robert G. Camp.

As part of the exercise, the 16-year-old was charged with two counts of felony manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence with passengers 15 or younger, using a cellphone and other offenses.

She faced going to jail with bail set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.

Watching in the crowd, her father, Calvin H. Rose, said he has tried to impress on his four children the importance of driving responsibly.

“It’s that time of year when these things can happen,” he said.

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