Westside High School Holds Mock Crash Demonstration


Photo Credit: Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Westside High School held a mock car crash event in its east parking lot on Friday, April 8. Following the crash, juniors and seniors reported to the auditorium to hear speeches from the family of a car crash victim, along with Principal Jay Opperman and an Omaha Police Officer who graduated from Westside.

In the crash demonstration, students from Westside’s theater program portrayed the victims of a car crash, with one simulated to have died. Another student’s role was that of a drunk driver who caused the accident, while the rest appeared to be injured. According to Westside Communications Director Brandi Paul, this visual demonstration is intended to be more personal than just lectures or speakers.

“We can share personal stories, but having that visual demonstration of the screaming of a distraught parent, or the [death] of a classmate is often a powerful way of reminding everyone [that] ‘yes, it could happen to you’, even with one wrong decision,” Paul said.

As part of the demonstration, Omaha Police and Fire Department vehicles arrived with lights and sirens. Following the “death”, staff from a local mortuary arrived to carry away the “body”, played by Senior Adian Upton. Police carried away Junior Kaydon Webber, who acted as the aggressive drunk driver. And finally, the Omaha Fire Department cut open one of the cars to remove another injured “victim”.

As for the agencies that cooperated with Westside to stage the event, Resource Officer Jeff Kilgore said that it took a large effort to make the event as realistic as possible, but that he felt it was worth it.

“I think I speak for all of [these groups] in saying that if we save just one life from doing this, it is worth it, and we will continue to do this in the future because it matters,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore said that he had first introduced Westside to the idea, and shared it with administration, who helped him plan the first event back in 2018.

“When I first arrived here, I got the idea just from researching duties of [a school resource officer (SRO)] and heard of the mock crash,” Kilgore said. “I viewed some videos on Youtube and spoke to other SROs around the metro who have participated, mainly [at] Papillon [High School]. I brought the idea to Mr. Opperman and he was very receptive to the idea. We conducted our first mock crash and impact speaker [presentation] three years ago with the idea that we would do this every other year for juniors and seniors. We had to skip a year with COVID but brought it back this year and plan on continuing this on an every other year rotation.”

WHS Principal Jay Opperman said he hoped that the demonstration would be more effective when paired with the impact speakers, to avoid the mock crash being seen as an entertainment event.

“I really believe it’s both parts, it’s the crash, then it’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving– who really coordinated the speakers– and the family that came in to speak,” Opperman said. “I talked to Officer Kilgore, and asked him what to do if we were weathered out, and we [decided], ‘no, we only want to do this if it’s both parts.’ We really believe as a school that the two things connected are what really give the impact. Sure, you could look at [the crash] as entertainment, serious entertainment, but I think the impact really comes when you hear the speaker and the experience of someone who lost a loved one. It’s that combined impact.”

Junior Nick Svoboda was skeptical that the mock crash would make an impact, saying that students irresponsible enough to drive drunk would not be affected. However, he believed it was still worth doing.

“I think the actors did the best they could,” Svoboda said. “[But] I think for the most part, it wouldn’t convince kids who were going to do something stupid in the first place away from doing something stupid. But if it convinces just one or two people away from doing that, then it’s justified.”