Sobering reality

Students lead effort to hold mock car accident to show actual results of drunken and distracted driving

A MOCK ACCIDENT on May 2 was intended to prevent Cedar Grove-Belgium High School students from drinking or texting and driving. Ben Anzia (left) played a drunken driver who failed field sobriety tests and was arrested. On his way to a squad car, he walked past an injured Bryce Ketterhagen, who was rolled to a Flight for Life helicopter on a stretcher. First responders (top right photo) cut the top off of a car to access victims. One teen lying on the hood of a car was pronounced dead at the scene and put into a hearse after her mother was called to identify the body. Photos by Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press staff

Many school districts hold mock car accidents in a “scared straight” attempt to keep students from drinking and driving — with texting and driving recently added to the list of distractions.

But Cedar Grove-Belgium High School’s event on May 2 was unique.

Students led the effort.

The topic of safety and tragedy arose in Carol Schumacher’s Advanced Placement Language class, and Georgie Isken, Jacy Zajac and Bryce Ketterhagen ran with the idea of the mock accident scene.

From there, Director of Building and Grounds Ben Lukens, who is a member of the Cedar Grove Fire Department, got the ball rolling.

The result was an assembly followed by  an accident scene in the high school parking lot with students as actors, complete with fake blood, a field sobriety test, arrest and death. A law enforcement officer called a mother of a student so she could identify her body.

Some of the first responders even took a vacation day just so they could participate, Lukens said.

For at least a few of the student participants, the mock crash felt a little realistic.

“It was honestly a little bit scary because it felt kind of real,” Rebecca Plier said.

“You know you’re not injured,” Zajac said, “but with everybody around you, you feel like you are.”

But it was important to have classmates involved.

“I think seeing a friend up there makes that much more of a difference,” said Bryce Ketterhagen, who played one of those seriously injured.

“We’re just hoping it can make an impact on at least one person.”

Ben Anzia, who played the drunken driver who hit a fellow student while texting and driving, said he hopes it also motivates people to join the fire department. His father and grandfather are members.

“Hopefully, it shows them they can be part of the community,” he said.

Lt. Wayne Lambrecht of the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office said he thinks the event made a difference.

“I had several students approach us after the presentation thanking us — based on that I think we reached some of the kids,” he said.

Students weren’t the only ones affected.

Principal Josh Ketterhagen, who saw his son wheeled to a Flight for Life helicopter on a stretcher, was moved.

“The mock accident hit me hard and I was quite emotional after it was all over. I hope to never see anything like that here or anywhere,” he said.

Before the accident, first responders and law enforcement officers discussed horrific cases to which they have responded, hoping to make an impact on students.

Lukens described a drug death in detail. Belgium Fire Department member Pat Wester described a head-on accident between a car and semi tractor-trailer. The driver of the car was split in two.

Lambrecht called a car a “2,000-pound projectile” and cited a statistic that one in 10 high school students will drive while impaired.

“That’s way, way too many,” he said.

A short video on an accident in Campbellsport in 2012 in which three teenagers died captured students’ attention.

A video by Cedar Grove-Belgium students set up the accident scene outside.

Schumacher said student leadership of the event was “crucial,” and Lukens expressed pride in the three who developed the idea. 

For the first responders, the call was nearly real, according to Belgium Fire Chief Dan Birenbaum.

“The same exact stuff we were doing that day is the same exact stuff we do on a call,” he said. “The kids seemed pretty interested. You look at their faces.”

Groups and individuals involved included the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department, Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department, Sheboygan County Dispatch & Dispatcher Brett Pilling, Nancy Niebauer, M & R Service Center, Eernissee Funeral Home and Flight for Life.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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