The last time a dramatic presentation on impaired driving was staged at Fort Stockton High School, people were just starting to use their cell phones only to talk and text.
A lot has changed in 12 years.
So, the “Shattered Dreams” program Friday, May 18 at the school will be much different than the last event in the early 2000s.
“Cell phones are now smartphones,” said Oscar Villarreal of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “Now you have data, live streaming, movies and video chats. Even the cars themselves now use touch screens to adjust the air conditioning and heater, music and GPS. It used to be our main focus with the students was on alcohol, wearing seatbelts and excessive speed. Now, we have to add distracted driving.
“The modern conveniences today are an inconvenience to life.”
For FSHS Principal Gil Rey Madrid, the program offers a way for the district to help education people about the hazards.
"The Shattered Dreams program is a needed program for our students and community," Madrid said. "The school district can play a pivotal role in helping students see the many problems resulting from, drinking and driving, racing, and distracted driving.
"An essential goal of the Shattered Dreams program is to expose teens and parents to the seriousness of such problems involving teenage driving. ... The school is extremely appreciative of all the support from all entities involved and the people that made the program a success."
Villarreal points out the one thing hasn’t changed since the last program here.
“Nov. 7, 2000. That is the last time we had a day without a traffic fatality in Texas,” Villarreal said. “Almost 18 years ago – some of the students we will be talking to weren’t even born then.”
The program uses actual students from the high school. They have prepared video showing a group of students partying the night before. Two teens start racing their cars. A crash occurs. At that point, the assembly is taking outside where they become witnesses to the recreated crash scene – with everything from dead and injured people, crashed cars and even a life-flight helicopter landing.
The Pioneer will be taking part, providing a live-stream on its Facebook page that will treat the event as an actual breaking news report. The Pioneer, in conjunction with Pecos County State Bank, has also produced an actual newspaper section that will be handed out to the students.
The paper will be given to the student upon their return from the crash scene to the auditorium for the “aftermath” portion of the presentation.
Villarreal said the visual and interactive nature of the Shattered Dreams presentation is essential to reach teenagers.
“As visual as our youth are today, it is important,” he said. “Kids don’t write, they send text. Social media is inclined give kids glimpse on what could happened, but it is even more effective if they see, feel and hear.
“Instead of just giving an informative speech or giving them a bulletin to read. If we can involve the local community together in one combined effort – especially through prom and graduation season – and make it visually impactful, we will get the message across.”
That message includes the fact that impaired and distracted driving claims the lives of more than 60,000 people ages 15 to 19 each year – more than all other causes combined.
Villarreal said that, depending on your speed, you can travel the length of a football field when you take your eyes off the road for even three or four seconds.
He said he has had to make too many visits to a house to tell a parent their child is dead.
“Troopers wear an iconic cowboy hat,” Villarreal said. “We are trained to deal with fights, pursuits, shootings, arrests and addressing situations in a positive manner.
“But there is no training, no words, nothing I can do to express what it is like when I knock on a door and tell someone their loved one isn’t coming home.
“The biggest thing Shattered Dreams is getting a chance to present to people in their own community with people they know reenacting what happens after a crash with true emotion.”