Sudden Impact: Keeping teens safe in the driver’s seat

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Louisiana State Police Troop I reports over 50 fatal crashes in 2019 on State Highways alone.  The state ranks in the middle of the pack on teen driving safety.

‘Sudden Impact’ is a program working to reduce those numbers. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens. In Acadiana, teenagers are learning the sudden impact of being in the driver’s seat and how many of these life-shattering moments are preventable.

“The reality is that every three minutes in Louisiana there’s a crash. Every seven minutes there’s a crash with injuries and every twelve hours there’s a fatality in Louisiana,” said Thomas Gossen, State Police Troop I Spokesman.

The realities of what can happen while in control on the road are introduced to young drivers every week in Acadiana like the students from St. Thomas Moore Catholic  High School.

“It’s not a scare them straight program. It’s a reality program. It shows you look, you do this, this is the potential damage you can cause this is the potential effect it has not only on your family but your school, your community,” said Gossen.

The Sudden Impact Program is led by University Medical Center, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reveals what little teens know about seatbelt safety, reckless, impaired and distracted driving.

“We always hope that they’re going to hear the message and not do those things. Unfortunately, so many kids that age tend to think that they’re invincible so they think it’s not going to happen to them,” said Tracy LeMaire, the state coordinator for the program.

During the program, the teens listen to emotional victim testimonies, go through mock crashes and even step inside the trauma center at Lafayette General Medical Center.

“When we bring them in you can see how they’re moved by it because we talk about real-life scenarios. We know that we are making a difference and even if they don’t necessarily admit it we know they are hearing us and we only hope that they take that message with them for the rest of there life,” said LeMaire.

This program continues to expand across Acadiana, reaching nearly 2,000 students last year.

Since the program began 20 years ago, it has expanded to 16 additional hospital host sites in 9 regions of Louisiana. It is in more than 120 schools.

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