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Westport Teens Show Grim Reality of Driving Drunk

Staples High School freshman Sarah Dublin was on her way home from a concert when the car she was in was hit by a drunken driver. The driver of the other car, a Staples High School parent who was two times over the legal limit, survived the accident, unharmed. But Sarah didn't.

This was one of many scenarios brought to life Friday by members of the Staples High School Teen Awareness Group with help from Westport EMS Coordinator Marc Hartog and Westport Police Officer Ned Batlin during the eighth annual Grim Reaper Day — an event held before prom designed to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Throughout the morning, student volunteers were pulled out from one of their classes and "killed." As TAG members transformed the volunteer into a ghost, Hartog and Batlin explained to the class how their classmate and friend was killed by a drunken driver.

"Every 40 minutes, someone is killed by a drunk driver. That's what we're trying to show," said TAG member Stevie Klein, a junior.

Once the student volunteer "dies," he or she returned to class — with painted face and a "Fear the Reaper" shirt — but was not allowed to talk or interact with others for the rest of the day.

"I think this is a great program," Hartog said after he and Batlin delivered bad news to one class. "Some kids snicker when we go in, but you're not always going to be able to get through to everyone. But if this helps change five, 10 or 20 kids' minds about drinking and driving, then the program is working."

A TAG-created documentary on drunken driving was also shown at two morning assemblies. During the more than 20-minute video, several Westporters spoke candidly about how someone they knew was killed because of drunken driving.

Posters with statistics and images of drunken driving accidents also lined the hallways of the school. Outside, a crashed car sat on display.

"I think what we're doing is having an impact," said TAG member Kate O'Brien, a sophomore. "A lot of students think they are invincible. Everything we're doing shows it can happen and that it only takes one time."

Do you think events like Grim Reaper Day are an effective tool to discourage drunken driving?

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