Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 05 March 2010 00:00
Prior to the Choices and Consequences driver-education program held on Feb. 24 a Roslyn High School, Assistant Principal Jay Pilnick told the seniors that in his 27 years of teaching, the day would represent one of the “most important assemblies” he had ever witnessed. He also told the students to turn off their beepers and keep it that way for the duration of the presentation. “You will remember this assembly for the rest of your life,” he said.
What followed was a dramatic and often graphic reminder of the deadly perils of drunk and reckless driving.
Choices and Consequences is a program from the offices of Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County District Attorney.
On this day, Maureen McCormick, Nassau County’s Vehicular Crimes Bureau Chief, was the speaker.
“I’m here to scare you enough to save your life,” Ms. McCormick claimed at the start of the program. What followed was a 90-minute slide show/presentation that certainly achieved the initial goal.
Ms. McCormick noted that each year, there are 350 fatalities on the roads of Nassau and Suffolk counties. All of them, she added, with the exception of those involving icy roads or similar conditions, are avoidable. And that was the purpose of the presentation, to remind teenagers the difference between, as Ms. McCormick termed it, something intentional and something avoidable.
Ms. McCormick showed slides of fatal accidents involving both teenagers and even grade school students on Long Island. This presentation was different in that it concentrated on an accident close to home: One that took place on Mineola Avenue in July 2007, an accident that claimed the life of a local physician. Not only was a life taken, but the driver, a former Roslyn High School student is now spending his youth in a jail cell. Reliving a crime that cut so close to home had a profound effect on the young people in the audience.
“Teenagers can’t handle it,” Ms. McCormick said, speaking of “new, fast cars.” “We can’t repeal the laws of physics.”
Ms. McCormick talked about more than driving. She also pleaded with the students to be careful who they get into a car with.
“Everyone here has a friend who’s an idiot,” she said, referring to the prototypical teenager who drives around with the radio blaring. “Don’t get into that car with an idiot.”
Last week, The Roslyn News published a story about a guide to parenting book by Ellen Pober Rittberg, a longtime Roslyn resident. In her book, Ms. Rittberg declared that parents flatly refuse to purchase a car for their teenage children. That advice might come in handy, too.
Ms. McCormick has prosecuted many cases of vehicular homicide, including one in the immediate Roslyn area a couple of years ago. Joining her in the presentation was a police officer, a young man working off the community service portion of his sentence by speaking at area high schools, and a wheelchair-bound young man, speaking publicly for the very first time, who was severely injured in an accident that killed two of his best friends.
The program has been presented at high schools throughout the county and was given earlier this year to Roslyn High School’s junior class. This second visit was for seniors. High school administration will ask ADA McCormick to bring this program back every year.
“Car crashes are the number one cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old,” Ms. Rice said. “I believe we can and must do something about that. By educating young drivers about the realities of the road and the consequences of poor decision making, we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries we see each year.”
For more information on Choices and Consequences, visit: http://www.nassau countyny.gov/agencies/DA/drdprevention.html.