Court presents DUI tragedies to Owasso students
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Friday, January 29, 2010
1/29/10 at 4:32 AM
OWASSO — As a flight nurse, Carolyn Hanig had responded to countless scenes of scrunched metal and mangled bodies.
But on May 9, 1997, the horror was personal, the heartbreak her own.
Hanig's son, Nik, 17, died that day in a collision near Adair. Nik — a passenger who wasn't wearing a seat belt — and other occupants in the vehicle had been drinking.
"Nik lost his life, and we all became collateral damage," Hanig told more than 1,300 Owasso Mid-High School students Thursday at the district's Performing Arts Center.
She wiped away tears and spoke haltingly as she relived the memory.
"This was 13 years ago," she said. "And it never, never, never gets better. It just doesn't."
Her words were among those that reverberated in CRASHs Court, short for Courts Raising Awareness of Students in High School.
Presented by Tulsa County District Court and coordinated by the Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa, the program educates students about the legal, financial and human costs associated with impaired driving.
Three cases in the Youthful Drunk Driving program were adjudicated Thursday, with Tulsa County Special Judge Mark Barcus presiding and Assistant District Attorney Brett Rutherford handling the prosecution. The click of handcuffs was audible; all three defendants taken away by sheriff's deputies received three-day jail sentences.
Students also were shown videos that illustrate the impact of underage drinking and drunken driving.
In one, a 14-year-old Ponca City girl dies of alcohol intoxication after getting booze from adults. The autopsy showed her blood-alcohol content to be 0.49, more than six times the legal limit of 0.08.
In another video, the life of a man who had run 35 marathons was dramatically altered by a drunken driver. The victim, who suffered a brain-stem injury, can now walk and talk slowly but can't work to support his family, Barcus said.
The success of the program "is if they will talk about it to someone else," he said. "And the feedback we get is that at least some of them are doing that. This gives teachers and counselors something to springboard from to have a deeper discussion and a more specific discussion with individuals."
In a CRASHs Court evaluation last year, 24 percent of the freshmen sampled reported having ridden with a friend or peer who had been drinking within the previous two hours. The same respondents reported that one-third had ridden with a parent or other adult who had been drinking within that time frame.
Rhett Morgan 581-8395
A defendant makes his way out of the Owasso school district's Performing Arts Center after being taken into custody to serve a three-day jail sentence Thursday during Courts Raising Awareness of Students in High School. The court was organized to raise awareness about drinking and driving for ninth- and 10th-graders. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Orlando Ayala is taken into custody Thursday as Tulsa County Special Judge Mark Barcus presides during Courts Raising Awareness of Students in High School at Owasso. The program addresses the costs of drunken driving. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World