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Mock car crashes are a popular way of illustrating the dangers of drinking and distracted driving to teens during prom and graduation season. But in Palm Beach in southern Florida, there is disagreement about how effective these events really are.

During a mock crash, students watch a scripted scene in which teens get into a serious crash because the driver was impaired. Police and fire-rescue rush to the scene. The crashed car is pried apart using the Jaws of Life, and injured students are rescued and treated. A hearse may drive away some students. The driver is given a sobriety test and is arrested.

“By themselves, they have minimal impact,” Claudia Bailly, spokeswoman for the United Way of Broward Commission on Substance Abuse, told the Sun-Sentinel. According to Penny Wells, Executive Director of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), research indicates that several days after the mock crash, the graphic image of twisted bodies and metal recedes from teen’s minds. They soon feel invincible once again, she added.

Bailly says continuous education throughout the year has a greater impact than a mock crash. Those messages also must target parents, she added.

Captain Don De Lucia of Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, which puts on crash reenactments several times a year, says they are worthwhile. “You never know how effective it’s going to be,” he said. “You figure if you save one (student), you accomplished something.”

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