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DWI-CRASH_20090717MISSION — Two groups of students at Sharyland High School got an intense look at the consequences of drunk driving this week before their weeklong vacation.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Johnny Hernandez met with students from the school’s in-school suspension program as well as students in elective classes like criminal justice and speech. With Spring Break approaching, Hernandez was invited to share the dangers of drinking and driving with the teenagers.

The presentation was not just about statistics. Hernandez showed footage of drunk drivers being tested on the roadside, videos of accidents and accident scenes and what was left of vehicles after first responders removed the victims.

While most students gasped at the site of blood on the pavement or learning that a steering wheel plowed into the chest of a driver, there were giggles when they watched how drunk drivers swayed or fell over when a roadside drug/alcohol test was being performed.

According to statistics Hernandez shared, Texas has over 27,000 alcohol-related accidents. Of those accidents, 955 resulted in death and 1,700 accidents resulted in injuries.

“You are the ones that are the leading cause of death in teens, especially as passengers. There are more than 5,000 teens being killed,” he said referring to national numbers.

Hernandez also showed a video of an alcohol-related accident that occurred during the daytime.

“A drunk driver is a drunk driver,” he said. “It doesn’t have a time.”

Hernandez said he made a point of showing the scenes versus discussing the accidents, using every tool he could while still respecting the individuals and families of people that died in the accidents.

He said pictures of the vehicles represent more than just the words on the screen.

“We need to take care of the driver,” he told the students. “When you’re intoxicated, you know what goes? Your mind goes. Your physical faculties go. They all go.”

He also shared other stories with the students, asking them to read the descriptions aloud. One of those stories included an incident where a mother driving with her daughter struck a limousine. The driver of the limousine and the seven-year-old girl died in the accident. The drunk driver held her daughter’s lifeless body and had to be separated from the body by authorities.

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol while intoxicated, or having an open container are Class B misdemeanors, but can become a third-degree felony if others are involved. If there is a fatality, the intoxicated driver could face intoxication manslaughter charges, a second-degree felony and up to 20 years in jail for each fatality. This does not include fines, probation terms or classes that the driver might have to attend.

Hernandez said Hidalgo County has caught up with most of the bigger cities like San Antonio, Austin and Dallas on the number of fatalities from driving accidents. Officials hope to decrease alcohol-related accidents with outreach presentations like this to educate drivers, specifically teen drivers.

“If we can save just one person by doing this, then it is worth it,” Superintendent Scott Owings said of the awareness program.

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