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MISSION — The Mission Police Department hosted a “Choose Your Ride” presentation for local high school students last week to show the repercussions of making the wrong decisions during Spring Break activities.
About 65 students from Mission High School and Veterans Memorial High School from an AP history class and a law enforcement class were in attendance. Craig Verley, a spokesman for the Mission Consolidated Independent School District, said the students are meant to be ambassadors and share the message with friends and other students.
Interim Police Chief Martin Garza introduced a video that showed pictures of car accidents that were the result of teenaged drivers taking the wheel after a Spring Break party. The message was simple – driving while intoxicated kills.
Garza told the students the choice was theirs on what vehicle they wanted to get a ride home in – a taxi, police vehicle, ambulance, or a hearse.
“There are choices that you guys are going to have to make this Spring Break,” he said.
In previous years, police set up crashed vehicles in different parts of the town. This year they decided to work with the school district. The goal is bringing the awareness to teenagers, who have the highest rates of fatalities, said Garza.
He also cautioned students against going to Mexico, to use the buddy system, not to be afraid to pick up the phone whether you decide to call the police department, a taxi, or a family member for a ride home, or stay home.
There are other reasons to vehicular deaths, said Garza, including speeding, texting and street racing.
The video, which was produced to illustrate consequences and featured staged incidents, ended showing two individuals being arrested. After the video, the two handcuffed individuals were escorted into the municipal courtroom for a mock arraignment.
One individual was charged with purchasing or furnishing alcohol to a minor. The other was charged with intoxication manslaughter causing the death to another, a second-degree felony that if found guilty, could mean up to 20 years in jail.
The bond amount on the manslaughter charge was $1 million.
Cpl. Manuel Casas, community relations with MPD, told the students that March is the third deadliest month of the year. Thirty percent of the 3,000 fatalities last year were teenagers, he said.
“You make that decision,” said Casas. “Are you going home or not?”
Later, officers were on hand to assist the students as they rode a three-wheel tricycle and walked a line with goggles that impaired their vision just like alcohol would.
The students fumbled, could not turn the trike, or stumbled while walking the line. While the students laughed at the stumbling of their peers, some of the reality stuck in their minds.
Tess Varlack, a student from VMHS, said seeing the pictures of accidents put more of a reality to the situation.
Unfortunately, she said, it depends on the person whether the message will be heard or not.
“I personally know people who are not going to take these lessons,” said Varlack. “But I know people who have already been affected by them and who are strong advocates against it for their friends.”
Garza said Mission police would be on alert and in full force this Spring Break, not only looking for drunk drivers, but also speeding and seatbelts.
“We want everybody to have a good, safe Spring Break,” said Garza.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.