Paramedics stress need for SAFE driving

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Every 12 minutes, someone dies by the number one non-combat killer in the U.S., a car accident, according to statistics presented in a Stay Alive from Education briefing Nov. 15 at Arnold Hall.

Cadets viewed graphic photos, videos and role-playing in a "Street Smart" presentation led by two Orlando firefighter paramedics, Joe McCluan and Scott Neusch, to observe a fatal car crash from the eyes of a first responder and learn the type of calls they receive when people make poor choices behind the wheel.

"We didn't travel to Colorado to give you a finger-pointing, condescending lecture to tell you guys how to live your life," McCluan said. "What Scott and I want to do for you today, is show you the consequences of your actions should you decide to make those poor choices, such as not wearing your seatbelt or using drugs or alcohol."

McClaun said paramedics witness more trauma than anyone else between 5 and 35 years old.

"Statistics tell us that 1 in 100 people die of trauma," McCluan said. "Most of the time, when we're dealing with traumatic injuries, drugs and alcohol play a part, but more often than not, when Scott and I drag dead bodies out of cars, it's simple: They don't have seat belts on."

Neusch said airbags only protect drivers in a head-on collision and work as a team with seatbelts.

"Anywhere in your car where you see an airbag, you're going to see the letters SRS that stand for Supplemental Restraining System," Neusch said. "That means your airbag is only there as a supplement to your primary restraint, which is your seatbelt."

McCluan said car accident victims are 25 times more likely to die if they are ejected from a vehicle.

"The only thing that's going to keep you from being ejected is a seatbelt," McCluan said. "Newton's Law of Inertia, which states any objects that are not moving will remain motionless, unless you apply a force on them, comes in to play every single day of your life. This means anything not secure in your car will fly forward upon impact."

McCluan and Neusch walked students through a trauma scene using a cadet volunteer and medical equipment they employ daily in their jobs. They demonstrated taking a pulse, loading a car accident victim onto a backboard and inserting an intravenous line to give students a real-life picture of what it's like to try to save a life.

"You may be thinking, you're just trying to scare us to put on our seatbelts and not drink and drive, just like any other 'scared straight' program," Neusch said. "In all reality, Joe and I would like to stand in front of you guys and tell you that's what we did, but we didn't have to because these are real pictures and events."

McCluan said cadets should take the information from the presentation and go out and make informed choices using common sense.

"Common sense tells you not to drink and drive," McCluan said. "It tells you to look out for your fellow Airmen and take that responsibility seriously. It tells you to put a seatbelt on for a reason and it certainly tells you that there is no text message, no tweet, Facebook update or email that is worth your life or somebody else's."

Cadet 1st Class Jakob Fischer of Cadet Squadron 24 said he thinks the briefing captured the audience's attention.

"I think it was one of the more effective briefings we've received," Fischer said. "No one was sleeping or really talking, which is pretty impressive. I think it got a point across to cadets."

Cadet 1st Class Ben Deschane, also from CS 24, said the presentation will make him think twice before making another poor decision behind the wheel.

"I've made some bad decisions driving and the presentation definitely changed my mind," Deschane said. "After seeing those pictures and just thinking about it, I'm definitely going to be a lot smarter with my choices."