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High school students hear hard lessons of the road

SoVaNow.com / April 15, 2019
With prom and spring break coming up, students at Halifax County High School got a timely reminder of the importance of safe driving at a Friday program organized by the school’s YOVASO Club.

Students, faculty, state and local police, EMS and medical personnel joined together for Project Impact at the school auditorium, using personal stories and visual aids to stress the harmful repercussions of distracted driving.

Due to bad weather, this year’s program was brought indoors — denying students the annual opportunity to drive around in carts wearing goggles that simulate the effects of drunk driving. But members of the HCHS YOVASO club and Principal Michael Lewis didn’t let the rain stand in the way of their mission of promoting safe driving as the warm weather — and big spring events — arrive.

Though they were not able to show the full extent of their presentation, which included a crashed car and student “victims,” they were able to present their step-by-step scenario with the aid of photos and some imagination.

The scene began with the students spread out on the stage of the auditorium, some in the “car” and others sprawled out on the ground, or a gurney. Members of local EMS explained each step as they assessed the “accident,” pronouncing one person dead at the scene and another at the hospital soon after. Upon investigation by a member of local police, the scene ended with the driver of the vehicle being placed under arrest for reckless driving after it was revealed he was driving over 90 miles per hour while texting.

Despite the serious nature of the subject, some attention spans may have wavered as students watched their peers act on a nearly-empty stage. However, the mood shifted perceptibly once special education instructor Tammy Moore took her place on the stage alone.

She began by addressing the ease in which society is able to handle tragic events, saying that “many times as humans we become numb to what we see, numb to what we hear.” She said that, because of this, people become “desensitized to the reality of what is really going on around us” and therefore, feel somewhat invincible — especially at a young age.

Moore, as many students seemed to already be aware, lost her own daughter, Maddie, after a car accident in October 2015. Confiding in the room that she would have a difficult time as she spoke, Moore recounted the months-long experience of her daughter’s accident.

Maddie had an active life both academically and socially, an enthusiastic member of many clubs, sports teams, and education programs, her mom recalled. After graduating from Halifax County High School in 2014, Maddie attended Danville Community College full-time while also working at the Danville hospital as a CNA.

Moore explained how important safe driving was to her daughter before the accident, saying that she made a point to practice driving off the road with her children so they would be prepared if it ever happened to them unexpectedly. Moore said Maddie was typically a particularly safe driver, saying that she would not let any of her friends ride in the car without their seatbelts.

Yet, as Maddie headed to her last volleyball match of the 2015 season, she ran off the road and overcorrected, causing her vehicle to flip several times. At the time, she was not wearing a seatbelt, which caused her to be thrown from the sunroof and land 80 yards from her vehicle.

Moore expressed her thoughts on the cause of the incident, saying that, although her daughter practiced safe driving regularly, it only took one mistake to end her life. She explained that, not only was her daughter not wearing a seatbelt that night, but texts on her phone showed activity up until just minutes before the accident. Although the details may never be known, Moore said that her “motherly intuition” told her that Maddie had dropped her phone and unbuckled her seatbelt to pick it up, something that she admitted even she had done before.

Through tears, Moore explained the months that followed the accident, in which her daughter fought for her life through various infections and surgeries — all the consequence of the injuries she sustained during the accident. She expressed the difficulty that she faced when, after a particularly bad infection nine months into the accident, Maddie’s illnesses became too much for her heart to handle.

“Here’s the thing,” Moore said plainly, “I thought I had prepared Maddie for that [situation] … but I hadn’t.”

She then addressed the black-clad students that had taken their place behind her on stage, citing the statistic given earlier by Lewis that 27 local youths have died since 2000 due to car accidents. Moore pleaded with the young audience, asking them to take the time to pull over if they drop something or need to send a text while driving. “I’m begging you.”

After Moore’s tearful plea to the students, Lewis re-iterated many of her words, and spoke just as candidly as he told his students that a seminar such as this would only make a difference as long as they chose to take the words to heart, “Only you can make the choice to listen.”

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