Sudden Impact Hits Hard

“Every seven minutes and fourteen seconds, someone is injured due to a car crash, and every twelve hours, someone dies due to a car crash injury.” Sudden Impact.

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Louisiana State Trooper Robert Mire leads the Sudden Impact presentation at University Medical Center in October. By emphasizing the effects of alcohol on the brain, Trooper Mire shows sophomores the dangers of drinking and driving.  (photo by Kathryn Valldejuli)

These facts were brought to life in the Sudden Impact program, which focuses on teen injury prevention. Executed by University Medical Center’s Level 1 Trauma Center and the Louisiana State Police, this powerful program focuses on motor vehicle safety while illustrating the consequences of distracting driving.

Learning how to be safe on the road is vital. It’s especially relevant for new drivers – such as Dominican sophomores – who are learning to master the rules of the road.

Each Dominican sophomore participates in Sudden Impact by spending a day immersed in the program. Throughout the first semester, sophomore homerooms traveled to University Medical Center and Touro Hospital to participate in this 7-hour long program.

The entirety of the Sudden Impact program includes the day-long presentation once a year as well as a mock crash and a mock trial every three years. Dominican began participating in this program in 2009. According to Dean of Students Ms. Sheri Salvagio (’84), Sudden Impact at DHS has been very effective.

“I believe we should be proactive in giving the students the knowledge they deserve to have in order to make smart decisions,” said Ms. Salvagio.

During the Sudden Impact presentation, students learned about current state laws as well as ways to avoid distractions while driving. To emphasize the importance of auto safety, the presentation also included real life scenarios of Louisiana students injured in automobile crashes due to distracted or drunk driving. They also heard the stories of victims of fatal car crashes who did not live to tell their stories.

One victim who did live to share her story was Ms. Ashlee Stokes. In 2008, Ms. Stokes was severely injured in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. Ms. Stokes suffered a serious brain injury due to the collision.  Ashlee, along with her father Mr. David Stokes, made a surprise appearance at the UMC Sudden Impact program. Together, they shared Ashlee’s story to teach others about the consequences of drunk and distracted driving.

Mr. Stokes shared his daughter’s thoughts and told the students to “make a difference.” He stressed the importance that even in a bad situation, there’s always a positive outcome that can be made.

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“Make a Difference” – Mr. David Stokes communicates his daughter Ashlee’s words to Dominican sophomores attending Sudden Impact in October.  The Stokes family encourages students who attend Sudden Impact to do everything in their power to prevent injury and to always find a safe ride home.

The Stokes family put these words into action when they began a program called Ashlee’s Angels Designated Driver Service. This non-profit organization, with the help of family, friends and volunteers, picks up people who need a safe, sober ride home. The Stokes family continues to make a difference by sharing Ashlee’s story to inform others on how important it is to stay safe on the road.

The sophomores were astonished at the consequences of impaired driving.  “We always think something like that can’t happen to us,” said Tai Sutherland. “It was really eye opening to see that bad things can happen to anyone.”

Ms. Bridget Gardner, RN, began the Sudden Impact program 19 years ago, and it has been successful ever since. The program has now reached 17 hospitals and over 100 schools throughout Louisiana.

“As presenters, our goal is that each teen learns a significant message to change a current high-risk behavior and reinforce a healthy decision when driving,” said Ms. Gardner.

“I was struck by how often these incidents happen,” said Sutherland. “Participating in this program definitely enlightened how I view road safety.”

The presenters at Sudden Impact emphasized the word “prevention.” They emphasized that it’s all about preventing bad things from happening.  Sudden Impact is one of the best ways students can be informed on how to stay safe and prevent injuries.

  • Kathryn Valldejuli