Georgia State Patrol Lt. David Cody didn't mince words.
"I'm not here to lecture you or to give you scare tactics," Lt. Cody told Thomson High School students during a recent assembly. "I'm just here to tell you the facts. Drive as though your life depended on it, because it does."
Joined by Toombs Judicial Circuit Chief Assistant District Attorney Durwood Davis, Lt. Cody focused on getting teenage drivers to be more careful in hopes of keeping them from being injured or killed in wrecks.
The program was organized by McDuffie County Partners for Success officials in the wake of a series of serious accidents involving local students.
Mr. Davis focused on the criminal fallout that often follows accidents.
For example, a reckless driver will be taken to jail if he or she causes the death of another person, Mr. Davis said.
"Business is good," he added in reference to persons being prosecuted for reckless driving within the six-county circuit, which includes McDuffie County. "Business is too good."
A person convicted of vehicular homicide is looking at a prison term of between one and 15 years, he pointed out.
"If you are caught, guess what; you will go to jail," Mr. Davis said. "This is serious stuff, folks. It's our hope that we won't see you in our courtroom."
As a former road patrol trooper, Lt. Cody knows and understands, all too well, that teenage drivers need to drive carefully. He has covered numerous traffic mishaps, including many fatalities.
In his opening remarks to students, Lt. Cody said, "One of the most emotionally difficult aspects of our job is handling the aftermath of a serious or fatal crash involving a teen driver. We never get used to making that phone call or knocking on the door to break the news that someone has been injured or killed."
Lt. Cody drove home his point with grim statistics.
He explained that more than 3,000 American military troops have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since March 2003. During the same time period, more than 22,000 teens, between the ages of 15 and 19, have died in traffic mishaps on U.S. roads.
The causes of those crashes are varied. They included:
- Driving and speeding
- Driving while distracted. For instance, talking on a cell phone, adjusting the radio, etc.
- Driving drowsy
- Driving while being unbuckled or unrestrained
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Following too closely or too fast for conditions.
Anyone of those combinations can spell disaster, destruction or death, Lt. Cody said.
He told students that the risks of being killed in a vehicular crash are three times higher at night. Most teens are killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and midnight.
"Errors behind the wheel can have life-changing consequences," Lt. Cody said.