Scared Straight

An interview with the WCA seniors who acted in the distracted driving demonstration


On Thursday, Sep. 12, the Westminster senior class was excused from senior service and instead gathered in the theatre to hear from St. Louis county police officers, EMTs, paramedics, the head of trauma management at Cardinal Glennon, and several firefighters about their personal experiences on the sites of severe and fatal car accidents. As they shared their stories about the terrifying crashes and incidents they have witnessed, they also encouraged the students to think carefully about their decisions, to understand that irresponsible and rash behavior can have detrimental and life-altering consequences, and, of course, to avoid distracted driving—which can involve looking at a phone, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or even something small like simply changing the radio station or looking away from the road for a second too long.

After listening to the talk, the seniors headed to the parking lot where a serious car accident scene was set up, and several police cars and fire trucks were already present. While simply watching the demonstration would likely affect many students and cause them to develop better driving habits, the main factor that led the students to pay attention, take the situation extremely seriously, and even to have emotional responses was the actors involved. Seeing their friends and classmates lying dead on the ground covered in fake blood, hanging lifeless out the window of a smashed car, or being airlifted by a helicopter was shocking to the students and forced them to accept the fact that car accidents are a tragic reality.

I interviewed some of the actors involved in the demonstration to hear their take on the situation and how they believe it affected both themselves and their classmates. Here’s what they had to say.

1) What was your role in the demonstration?

“I was the person who wasn’t really injured but had to witness everything. It was an interesting part because I saw everything go down while also having to act emotionally shaken,” said Clayton Perona, senior.

“I played a dead person halfway through the windshield in the car of the drunk driver. I was covered in fake blood, and [the police officers and EMTs] put a sheet over me after they identified me as deceased,” said Will Mason, senior.

2) What was it like acting in such a serious and emotional scene? What was your overall experience?

“At first it seemed kind of like a joke, but after I was sitting down just watching it all, it set in as something super serious that could happen to anyone. I had a pit in my stomach the rest of the day and it was hard to focus on anything else after the demonstration,” said Perona.

“I played a dead person. [The situation] became real to me when my friend Clayton mourned my dead body. Also, it was scary when my “mom” freaked out,” said Aiden Davitt, senior.

3) What do you hope the seniors got out of the demonstration?

“I honestly just hoped they took it seriously. Part of me thought most kids would find it funny, but I think almost everyone saw it as something that could happen to them. I couldn’t really ask for more,” said Perona.

4) Do you think other high schools should have demonstrations like this, too?

“I think it would be beneficial. As the fire chief said, if it prevents just one accident it’s worth it,” said Perona.

“I think this is a super important thing other schools should be doing. It has such a big impact on the student body seeing their classmates ‘dead’ or in ‘critical condition’ along with the stories that the EMS and police officers told us afterward. It definitely changed my perspective on distracted driving, and I can say that I didn’t think it was a very big deal before the demonstration, but now it is something I think about a lot,” said Mason.

5) Do you have any advice for the rest of the student body and for high school students in general?

“I wouldn’t say I’m an expert about this or anything, but I think just making sure we don’t drive distracted or impaired is the only takeaway,” said Perona.