Students exposed to the dangers of drunk driving, texting behind the wheel
Rhea County High School danced the night away for prom 2018 on Friday evening at Howe Farms in Georgetown, Tenn. On Thursday morning, ahead of the big celebration, they saw an emotional mock DUI crash demonstration and heard personal stories from two local law enforcement officials.
Along with the dangers associated with driving after consuming alcohol or drugs, students also watched a video about the possible consequences of distracted driving such as texting while behind the wheel.
The dangers of poor decisions are all too real in more ways than one for Rhea County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy John Argo, along with Dayton Police Chief Chris Sneed. Both have been on the scene of crashes and had to relay bad news to parents and families that their loved ones had been involved in a dangerous or fatal accident.
The reality of those often-avoidable crashes hit home for the two longtime local officials, and on Thursday they shared with RCHS prom-goers personal stories of how the poor decisions of others changed their lives forever
“The choices and decisions you make not only effect your lives but the lives of others around you,” Argo said. “Think of today as a semicolon; the pause it represents also represents the point just before you make a decision in your life and that brief pause can effect the rest of your story,” he said.
“I’ve been involved with countless situations where someone’s poor decision changed the lives of others. The drive to a parent’s house to tell them that their child has been involved in an accident and will not be coming home is the worst part of my job,” Argo said.
The car used in the mock DUI demonstration was the actual vehicle driven by Argo and his family on July 3, 2016 when a drunk driver hit crashed into them. The drunk driver was hauling a large dump-trailer filled with mountain rock and collided with Argo’s vehicle near the south entrance to Graysville.
The impact of the collision forced the family’s car to spin and then flip several times before landing on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Argo and his wife suffered injuries in the crash and had to be transported to the hospital to be treated for their injuries
“Luckily, we were paying attention to the road and wore our seatbelts which saved our lives that night. Our lives have changed forever because the decision of someone else and I don’t want any of ya’ll to be the one that changes someone’s life because of a poor decision,” Argo told students.
While the Argo family lived to recount the events of that evening, Chief Sneed’s story has a much more devastating ending.
While traveling home down Dayton Mountain Road, Sneed’s son, Tyler Leon Sneed, is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel and fatally wrecked his vehicle in a single-car accident on Nov. 20 2010. Sneed wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was pronounced deceased at the scene.
A well-known figure in the community and the son of the police chief, grandson of long-time chief Leon Sneed and stepson of Rhea County executive George Thacker, Tyler was described as a friend to all.
At the time of his passing, he was a volunteer for the Evensville fire department and was one class away from his certification with the City of Dayton fire department. “Tyler was truly a unique individual and never met a stranger. He was always willing to help others,” Chief Sneed said.
Chief Argo, a close friend of the Dayton chief the last several years, had to deliver the devastating news to his fellow law enforcement comrade that his son wasn’t coming home early that Saturday morning.
“Tyler was a great kid but just got caught up in some terrible things in a way that he made a terrible decision one night. I just want you to make yourself aware of the decisions you make, not the minor ones, but the ones that impact other people,” Sneed said. Everything in our lives has changed since his passing all because of that one decision he made.”
Sneed reminded students that despite any possible misconception, that no one is exempt from consequences that can follow a poor decision. “I want you to prevent yourself from getting caught up in bad situations,” he said. I’d encourage you to surround yourself with people are a positive influence, because when you don’t, it can effect many people.
RCHS associate principal Micah Ruehling also spoke at the assembly and encouraged students to make the right decisions and to speak up if they see a fellow classmate or friend making a poor choice this weekend.
“The Saturday mornings after prom and graduation are always a stressful one for me as administrator because I wake up every year hoping I don’t have message or voice mail that something bad has happened to one of our students,” he said. “We of course want you guys to have fun and make great memories but most importantly, we also want you to make the right decisions and to get home safely,” he said.
The Rhea County Anti-Drug Coalition, the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department, Rhea County United Way, Rhea County first-responders and RCHS theatre students collaborated to make Thursday’s mock DUI crash and assembly possible.