Utah Highway Patrol troopers hope a year-old program that teaches high school students about the consequences of drunken driving will help curb teenage automobile deaths in Utah.
"Of all of the things that people have to see, I hope most don't have to see the things that a policeman's nightmare is made of. But I would live a lifetime of those nightmares if I could save just one of their lives," UHP Trooper Bruce Provost said.During the past year, Provost and 18 other troopers have presented "Scared Stiff" programs to the state's high school students to do just that. The program is funded through a grant from Ford Motor Co.
Rather than showing pictures of blood and gore, the presentation focuses on the emotional scars drunken driving leaves on friends and family. The different approach attracts teenagers' attention, particularly around prom and graduation time.
Since the program was started in Maryland in 1979, not one student who has attended a "Scared Stiff" program has later died in an alcohol- or drug-related accident, Provost said.
Provost said the UHP hopes the statistics hold true in Utah.
When Provost talks about drinking and driving with students he is candid, but not preachy.
"We don't tell them what to do. We're showing and explaining what will happen if they choose something wrong," he said.
"We tell them what we see at a crash scene . . . We tell how their body becomes the property of the state so an autopsy can be performed. We tell the instruments used in an autopsy and how an autopsy is performed."
Provost talks about how law officers feel when they must tell parents their son or daughter died in a drunken driving accident.
"We are human beings too. It is tough to have tell parents their son or daughter was killed because of drinking and driving," he said.
Every day 11 teenagers die in such accidents in the United States. In Utah 87 teenagers, ages 14-19, have been killed in alcohol-related automobile accidents since 1983. In 1987, 13 in that age group died, according to the state Department of Highway Safety.
"If I can get all of them to get the feeling that you have when you are going around the big loop on the Colossus at Lagoon - a feeling like they are holding to everything. When they feel like they need hold on to everything when they drink and then want to drive, I'll have done something," Provost said.
- Joel Campbell