HHS students learn dangers of driving under the influence

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA–“If you find yourself in a bad situation and feel the urge to drive after consuming alcohol, think twice about your actions and have someone come pick you up,” Executive Director of Shelby County Community Corrections Julius Cook stressed to Helena High School juniors and seniors the morning of Thursday, March 8.

With the Helena High School prom taking place on Saturday, March 10, and the potential for distracted driving to be at an all-time high, Cook along with Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Lara Alvis and members from the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition paid a visit to HHS for an important distracted driving presentation two days before prom.

Cook had a powerful message to share to students about the dangers of drinking and driving as his world was turned upside down on Sept. 9, 2015.

Cook explained how he tragically lost his father and nearly his mother because the driver of a tractor trailer decided to get behind the wheel under the influence.

“My dad was killed by a drunk driver of a tractor trailer who lost control and jackknifed into my parent’s vehicle,” Cook said. “My dad actually laid across my mom when he saw the 18-wheeler coming. My dad was pronounced dead at the scene and my mother didn’t have a pulse until she finally gasped for air. She ended up being in the hospital for three months and in a coma for a month and a half. The craziest part about the whole thing is that the drunk driver walked away without a scratch.”

Cook shared his story while showing harrowing photos of his parents mangled vehicle that resembled scrap metal rather than an actual car.

Another way the assembly helped hit home was a wrecked vehicle display on the campus of Helena High School.

Students could actually see crashed vehicles that were involved in a distracted driving crash and what can happen from one bad decision.

Alvis spent time showing students how drinking alcohol can affect the brain and decision making while stressing how the court system does not go easy on deaths caused by alcohol related crashes.

To conclude the assembly, several students had the opportunity to try on “drunk goggles” and attempted to walk a straight line. The goggles ranged from .08 to .16 to imitate the feeling of being legally drunk or twice the legal limit. The majority of students swayed back and forth and struggled to keep their balance.

This was Cook’s first time presenting with the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition and he stressed he wanted to share his personal story with students to help avoid future accidents.

“My family has taken a hands-on approach for drunk and distracted driving,” Cook said. “Everybody can be affected by drunk driving and even whole communities. If you make a decision to drink or use a substance we want to stress to them to get a ride and not get behind the wheel so no one has to go through the same tragedy we went through.”

The Shelby County Drug Free Coalition will be traveling to other high schools in the county performing similar skits with a number of different speakers.

Other schools participating in the distracted driving presentations includes Calera High School, Vincent Middle High School, Montevallo High School, Cornerstone Christian School, Thompson High School, Spain Park High School, Pelham High School, Oak Mountain High School, Chelsea High School and Shelby County High School.