Thursday, October 14, 2004

New drivers get look at real-life tragedies



By Jennifer Edwards
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Trauma nurse Christi Witsken, an injury prevention coordinator at University Hospital, tells of injuries and deaths that happen to people involved in car crashes.
The Enquirer/GARY LANDERS
COLERAIN TWP. - Make bad choices, suffer the consequences - especially behind the wheel of a car.

That was the message Wednesday to hundreds of students at Colerain High School, where safe driving was the week's focus.

The safe-driving lessons, sponsored by the Hamilton County Safe Communities program, have been heard by thousands of teens the past five years.

Speeding or taking your eyes off the road for even a moment to dial a cell phone or play a CD can cause accidents that result in serious injuries and death, warned Christi Witsken, a trauma nurse from University Hospital.

She addressed the students, mostly ninth- and 10th-graders, Wednesday as part of the hospital's "Choices to Chances" program in conjunction with the county's project.

"I'll tell you guys, it only takes a few seconds," Witsken said. "Trauma is not a fun experience. It does hurt and you may have consequences when you go home."

Witsken told students about working in a trauma unit at a hospital, trying to save the lives of car crash victims.

To illustrate the severity of auto accidents, she showed students a few graphic photos: a bloody gurney after surgery, a person undergoing surgery and a teen trapped in a car.

"The leading cause of death for your age group, 15 to 19 years old, is car crashes," she told the students, "so making the right choices, avoiding distractions and wearing a seat belt are critical."

Earlier this week, students heard from an employee of the county's juvenile detention center and a Colerain Township police officer, who explained how police spot intoxicated drivers.

Today, the teens are scheduled to learn from a paraplegic what life is like being paralyzed.

"Young people sometimes feel like they are invincible, but one slip-up in life can be forever changing," said Dan Merkt, chairman of Colerain's physical education and health department.

For some students, the frank lessons aren't ones they soon will forget.

"It makes me scared that when I start driving I'll get into a crash and die," said freshman Courtney Mueller, 14. "I will drive carefully and wear a seat belt so I don't look like the people on the video."

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com




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