THS students get pre-prom distracted driving warning
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
ALABASTER – Thompson High School has hosted several drunk and distracted driving seminars before prom the past few years, but the April 5 event came with extra significance. This year’s seminar came several weeks after THS student Camryn Callaway died in a distracted driving accident on Interstate 65 in Pelham.
“This is a very important message,” THS Principal Dr. Wesley Hester said to the school’s about 700 drivers during the event, as Callaway’s heavily damaged silver Ford Mustang was on display in front of the school as a tangible warning of the dangers of distracted driving. “Without a question, this has a lot more meaning for us now here at Thompson High School because we lost one of our own a few weeks ago.
“This is about getting your hands on the wheel and keeping your focus on the road and being a responsible driver,” Hester added.
The distracted driving prevention event came a few days before the school’s prom, and was hosted by the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition, which has sponsored several similar events at area public and private schools over the past several weeks.
During the event, Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Lara Alvis recruited several THS students to act out a skit demonstrating the consequences distracted and drunken driving can have. During the skit, an inebriated student caused a severe crash, and was arrested along with his underage passenger. The arrest led police to the house party the students came from, and caused every underage attendee at the party to be arrested.
“If you are at a party and you’re under 21 and there’s alcohol there – even if you weren’t drinking – you’re going to get arrested,” Alvis told the hundreds of students. “As a judge, if someone comes before me and they had a DUI or were distracted, that’s negligent and it’s manslaughter if someone dies.
“Don’t come to the criminal justice system and ask us to feel sorry for you,” Alvis added. “If you’ve been drinking and driving, you know better. If you come to Columbiana and you’ve hurt someone (in a DUI-related crash), it’s going to be a bad day for you.”
The students also heard from Julius Cook Jr., who lost his father in a 2015 crash with an 18-wheeler being driven by a man under the influence of marijuana.
“Mom and dad would much rather you call someone (if you’re considering driving drunk), mom and dad would much rather you not answer that text while you’re driving. Mom and dad would much rather be mad at you than to be sad because they no longer have you,” Cook said.