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Don’t drink and drive, Highway Patrol tells Picayune students

Juniors and seniors at Picayune Memorial High School were treated to a presentation by the Mississippi Highway Patrol about driving safety, just before prom.

Picayune Police Sgt. Lamar Thompson said the purpose of the presentation was to inform the students about the dangers of drinking and driving before they celebrate the nearing end of school with their prom on Saturday. Last year there were no reported fatal accidents during Picayune’s prom. That could be attributed to the current process of busing students to their prom destination, he said. There is the possibility of parties after prom however, Thompson said.

Mississippi Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Cpl. Johnny Poulos spoke to the students about peer pressure, drinking and driving, driving while using a cell phone and seatbelt safety.

Poulos said while peer pressure is part of life, when trouble comes, others’ opinions will not matter.

If for some reason students decide to drink at a party, even if they are the designated driver, careful thought could save lives.

“One bad decision does not have to be followed by another bad decision,” Poulos said. “If you get in that car you just handed them the keys to your soul.”

Normal reaction time for the human body involves about one-and-a-half seconds from the time the eye processes danger till the foot reacts to stop, Poulos said. Alcohol slows that process. He said a vehicle traveling 80 miles per hour covers 150 feet each second.

DUI does not only include alcohol. Poulos said any substance that can alter reaction time will result in a DUI charge, including prescription drugs and marijuana.

The growing popularity of cell phones has created another driving hazard. Poulos said cell phone use, including texting, while driving causes a driver’s attention to be used on things other than the road. In the three seconds it would take to send a text message, a vehicle could have covered the length of a football field.

Seatbelts are now mandated under Mississippi law, Poulos said. When a car stops, the driver and passengers wearing seatbelts stop with the car. The same is not true for those not wearing seatbelts. When the car stops the body would continue to travel at the same speed.

He then showed the students a video hypothetically portraying four people in a car involved in a head on collision. Two passengers and the driver were wearing seatbelts while the third passenger was not. During the collision the passenger not wearing his seatbelt was flung about the vehicle cabin, killing himself and two passengers.

The final slide during the presentation was a casket key. Poulos said while this key will be used, that time should be after life’s accomplishments have been made.