Skagit success story: 10 years with no prom night DUI deaths

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 3, 2013 at 5:56 PM

Updated Friday, May 3 at 6:00 PM

The end of the year is near at Burlington-Edison High School. School's almost out, and thoughts have turned to proms and parties.

“I’m just looking forward to being with my friends and having a good time,” said senior Brian Gurney, crossing campus on a sunny Friday afternoon.

Carly Tolf is preparing for her prom on Saturday. She knows all too well how quickly good times can turn terrible. The memory of a friend stays with her, especially on weekends like the one that’s coming up.

“She was pregnant and about to get married. A drunk driver hit her and killed her," Tolf said. "It was really upsetting. It was hard for everyone.”

A similar scene played out at the high school Friday afternoon, except today, everyone got to go home.

Troopers from the Washington State Patrol sponsored a mock DUI crash at the school, complete with a medical airlift helicopter landing on the football field, two crashed cars and paramedics using the “jaws of life” to extract a student actor.

“This is as real as we can make it so that we don't have to go to their mom or dad's house and tell them that they're not coming home that night,” said Trooper Mark Francis.

The realism of this drill was impressive, but even more so is the fact that since WSP started the program in Skagit County a decade ago, there hasn't been a single serious DUI-related crash during prom and graduation season.

You can see why the program is so successful by looking in the eyes of the students taking it all in.

“Actually seeing your friend having a sheet put over her, it's like you actually there,” said Ashleigh Bombatch, wiping away a tear. “This could actually happen. That's what's so scary.”

The State Patrol isn't exactly sure why this campaign has been so effective in Skagit County. Troopers say high profile patrols and parental involvement have a lot to do with their success as well.

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