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Mock DWI crash shows Canton students dangers of drunk drivinng, cell phone use

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CANTON - With their friend’s lifeless body draped across the hood of a pick-up truck, students at Canton Central School experienced a grim reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Add in texting or talking on a cell phone and the risk of an accident is even greater, they learned during a mock DWI crash staged in front of Hugh C. Williams High School.

Students in grades 7 to 12 gathered on the sidelines to watched Canton rescue workers deal with the aftermath of the pretend two-vehicle collision that left two people dead and three injured.

Police officers, a local judge and a driver from O’Leary Funeral Services participated in the 30-minute performance. Adding to the effect were empty beer cans strewn on the driveway and pools of fake blood.

Makenzie L. Knowlden, 15, said showing students what can happen is more powerful than just telling them.

“It’s a lot more graphic than people just talking to us,” the sophomore said. “I think a lot of students are drinking, but not a lot are putting themselves in the position where they’re driving.”

With high school proms, graduation celebrations and other events on the horizon, St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Coordinator Michele J. James is making the rounds to deliver a message that could save lives.

She urged students to avoid getting behind the wheel with a drunk or drugged-up driver.

“Don’t ever assume your driver is sober. We want to make sure you are safe. Please make sure your driver is sober at all times,” Ms. James said.

Jack G. Townsend, a Canton crossing guard who works in front of the school, circulated through the crowd of students. He reminded them not to use their cell phones while driving. It’s a problem he sees too often.

“About every third car, I see a high school student texting or talking on their cell phone,” Mr. Townsend said.

He warned students, “If you veer off, someone may have to go to your parents and say you’re not coming home. It’s up to you, but that’s what can happen.”

Chantel H. Rose, a junior who played the role of the drunk driver who was using her cell phone, was arraigned in front of Pierrepont Justice Robert G. Camp.

The 16 year old was charged with two counts of felony manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence with passengers aged 15 or younger, using a cell phone and other offenses. Justice Camp ordered Ms. Rose to jail and set bail at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.

Watching in the crowd, her father, Calvin H. Rose, said he’s tried to impress on his four children the importance of driving responsibly.

“It’s that time of year when these things can happen,” he said.

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