Vehicles were accelerating, tires were squealing and many law enforcement officials were on site.
No, this wasn't a high-speed chase. It was the scene Sept. 13 for the Rule the Road event in Batesville's Thrive Market parking lot.
Forty-five students from Batesville, Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, South Ripley and Franklin County high schools and Oldenburg Academy participated in the program designed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to help prepare teenage drivers for the dangerous situations they might encounter while operating motor vehicles. In order to participate, the teens, ages 15-18, had to either have a valid Indiana driver's license or learner's permit.
"It gives teenagers real-life hands-on experiences and teaches them driving skills," reports Batesville Police Chief Stan Holt.
It also brings together what they learned in their drivers' education classes and actual driving experiences, he noted.
"There are about five law enforcement agencies represented here," including the Batesville Police Department, Indiana State Police, Franklin County Sheriff's Office, Indiana State Excise Police and Versailles Police Department. In addition, there were school resource officers from the schools. "Many of them are certified emergency vehicle operators and train other officers .... They teach kids how to be careful when they're driving. Hopefully, the kids will remember the skills they learned today, and it will save some lives."
Margaret Mary Health and Thrive Market also helped make this event a success.
The teens participated in a variety of situations during the course, announced Will Wingfield, ICJI communications director. "A skid car simulated what it would be like if your vehicle goes into a skid on icy or wet roads and taught them how to respond.
"They had to go around obstacles and learn controlled driving. For evasive maneuvers, the kids had to make quick decisions if something ran out in front of them, such as a child or a deer."
Fatal vision goggles showed participants how drugs can impair their vision, and the teens also experienced difficulties passing a field sobriety test while wearing the googles. The distracted driving simulator allowed students to see the effects of texting and driving.
"A seat belt convincer simulated what a 7 mph crash would feel like. There was also an air bag demonstration and opportunities to learn vehicle maintenance," Wingfield said.
Holt added, "Crum Trucking (officials) volunteered to bring one of their trucks over to demonstrate where the blind spots for drivers are."
Why were students interested in participating?
Even though some admitted they signed up to get out of class, they also found it to be a great learning experience.
Mackenzie Derico, a Milan High School senior, said, "We wouldn't really get to experience these things unless it was an emergency, but I wanted to learn how to deal with them ahead of time before something happens."
Classmate Alyssa Brinkman thought the course sounded "fun and interesting .... I didn't really expect it to be so interactive."
"I learned how to sit up correctly in the driver's seat .... It makes total sense with the airbags. I also learned how to change a tire. I had no idea how to do that."
MHS senior Elizabeth Sutherlin reported, "I learned a lot of things about cars. I knew nothing before because neither one of my parents are car savvy. Now I know how to change the oil and a tire. Learning what to do if I start to skid was the most important thing I learned today. I've been on interstates when it's icy."
Oldenburg Academy senior Gabe Haverkos thought participating in the event "looked like a good opportunity to improve my knowledge of driving and traffic .... I feel I'm much better prepared for situations I could be in while driving."
"I learned not to freak out if you get pulled over," said OA senior Sydney Bauman.
Dave Abel, Batesville Community School Corp. resource officer, thought it was "a great program that taught basic skills."
Rhonda Savage, Thrive Market consultant, said the business was happy to host the event. "We value the partnership with Margaret Mary Health and law enforcement, and we share our mission with MMH to support a healthy lifestyle."
Wingfield announced, "We (ICJI) go to a few schools each year for the Rule the Road program. It wouldn't be possible without the great partnership with the schools, police and others."
"It's better to test the skills and understand your limitations here (during the course) than on the road where the consequences could be deadly," he emphasized.
Diane Raver can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.