OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Students at Ocean Springs High School are looking at homecoming with an extra sense of safety. At least, that's what school administrators are hoping.
The lights and sounds were real, the cars were very much real, and the scene played out just as it would if it were really happening. Real sobriety tests, real handcuffs, and real students played crash victims to drive home the importance of good decision making.
At times, the scene was a little overwhelming and emotional. One student was even "declared dead on the scene" and zipped up in a body bag. It was a morning that administrators and other officials hoped the students would never forget.
"It felt like you were really watching a scene," said Assistant Principal Justin Sutton. "I think it was a great opportunity for our kids to learn and not make those kind of fatal mistakes."
School resource officer Michael Krebs led the effort, and coordinated with multiple agencies to make the event possible. He started planning the morning almost a year ago. Little did he know that this demonstration would take place two weeks after an Ocean Springs grad died in a high speed accident.
To students, the message hit home.
"It shouldn't happen to anybody, but it does, and it's a real big eye opener," said Lizzy Martin.
"I'm not drinking and driving, that's for sure. It got me to realize for sure. It's terrible," added Malcolm Wright.
For many of these students, seeing the drunk driver walk away unharmed while others were airlifted and loaded into ambulances and a hearse was shocking.
"I don't think I could live with myself knowing I did that to someone," said Martin.
But, organizers say the issue wasn't just about self control when it comes to alcohol. It's also about knowing the right thing to do in any scenario.
"Peer pressure can go two ways - positively or negatively. But in that moment, if we can get the teens to speak up and say something, it has an impact. Silence is silent approval," said Tawni Basden of University Medical Center, who helped organize the event.
According to Basden, Mississippi is fifth in the nation for youth highway fatalities and Jackson County is in the top 25 in the state for DUI related crashes.