GATLINBURG (WATE) – Students at Gatlinburg Pittman High School got a first-hand look at the dangers of distracted driving Monday with a mock crash.
The mother of two GPHS students who were killed in a car crash two years ago spoke to the students at the event.
“There will be a group of intoxicated teenagers that have just left a party and they will have crashed into a family,” said School Resource Officer Sharon Atchley.
It was an all too realistic scene put on by the GPHS chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions. They teamed up with Gatlinburg first responders to show their peers how badly distracted or drunk driving can end.
“The decisions they do make don’t only affect them, but they affect the community, their families,” Atchley said.
To drive the point home, Tonya Rolen stood in front of them sharing her own personal tragedy.
“February 6, 2015, my children, Sarah and Tyler Rolen decided to skip school and go hang out with friends, lost control of the car and killed both of my children and one of their friends instantly,” Rolen said.
Her son, 15 when he died, would have been part of this year’s graduating class at Gatlinburg Pittman. Rolen hoped the students would have several takeaways from Monday’s mock crash.
“That you’re not invincible, you’re not bulletproof. One bad decision can shatter lives,” she said.
She is hoping the teens can learn from the loss of her kids, their classmates, and that the images they saw during the mock crash will stick with them the next time they get behind the wheel.
“One of the last things that she had wrote in her journal was that she wanted to make a difference in this world and she’s not here physically to do that so I have to do that for her,” Rolen said.
Pigeon Forge High School also recently hosted a similar mock crash incident. The schools are hoping to continue the programs each year.