A parent who lives in an apartment on Colony Run in Alexander called dispatch to complain that their adolescent child got a tattoo from someone in Bethany without permission. A Sheriff's deputy is responding.
Crystal M. Bouter, 26, of Oak Orchard Road, Elba, is charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Bouter's children were allegedly found playing unsupervised near a busy intersection while wearing little to no clothing. Social Services assisted deputies with the investigation and took custody of the children. Bouter was arraigned in Elba Town Court and released under supervision.
Robert Gerlach, of Route 20, Alexander, is charged with two counts of aggravated harassment, 2nd. Gerlach is accused of sending threatening text messages and voicemails to two different family members at a residence on Tinkham Road in the Town of Bennington. Deputies located Gerach in Portville. He was arraigned in the Town of Bennington Court and released on his own recognizance.
The man accused of killing Alexander resident Nicholas Mruczek was assigned a public defender in Chester County, Pa., on Tuesday and his attorney immediately requested a new date for a scheduled felony evidence hearing.
The hearing for Zachary Ludwig, 22, of King Street, Spring City, Pa., has been moved to 1 p.m., July 30. The delay will give the defendant's new attorney time to familiarize himself with the case.
Ludwig is charged with murder, accused of calling Mruczek out of his apartment the evening of July 15 and shooting him in the chest at close range with a sawed-off shotgun. Mruczek succumbed to his wounds the following day.
Mruczek was allegedly targeted by Ludwig because Mruczek started dating Ludwig's former girlfriend.
A mass of Christian burial for Mruczek will take place at 10 this morning at Ascension Parish, corner of Swan and Sumner streets, Batavia.
More than a thousand National Grid customers in Genesee County are without power.
There is a power outage the Byron-Bergen ara that extends south to Le Roy, and almost north and east to the Village of Bergen. More than 1,000 customers are without power. A reader reports a tree is down.
A smaller outage is affecting 44 customers in Alexander, near the county line, east of Route 98. There is an ETA of 7:45 p.m. for power restoration.
Pat Mruczek looked forward to the day all good fathers dream about, when their boys enter the adult world and learn about adult life, start families, gain a new perspective on what it means to be a father, and eventually, care for them in their old age, as they cared for their sons as babies.
Pat Mruczek will never see those days with his son, Nicholas Mruczek.
Nicholas, 20, and a 2012 graduate of Alexander High School, was shot and killed Wednesday at his apartment in North Coventry Township, Pa. He died the next day.
"Sometimes it doesn't seem real," Pat said. "It seems like a bad dream. I just want it to end. I kept thinking he's going to call me at night and tell me, 'Dad, it's all right. I'm here.' ... I know he's not."
Spread out on the kitchen table were pictures of Nick, a smiling boy, a boy dressed as a shepherd for a school play at St. Joe's, his senior pictures in his green Trojans football jersey, holding up a big cheeseburger at the former Jackson Street Grill. Pat, a big man with close-cropped hair befitting a former Army Ranger and corrections officer at Attica, wept some as he pulled pictures from a photo album. "I'm sorry," he said repeatedly as he struggled to hold back the tears.
Then he would remember something about Nick, tell the story, smile and laugh even as moisture glistened around his eyes.
"Sometimes he'd come home and fall asleep on the couch and then I'd put the bear up to his face, like the bear was giving him a kiss and then I'd take pictures on the phone," Pat said as he laughed through the memory. "Sometimes, really early in the morning, and he was sleeping, I would go in there and I used to wake him up. 'Nick, Nick, you gotta get up. You gotta get up.' 'What? What?' 'I'm going to make pancakes,' I told him."
All good fathers love their sons. Nick and Pat called each other, "my best friend."
They fished together, built model trains together, played sports together, worked on cars and tractors together and shared their hopes and fears the way best friends do. Until Nick went away to school, to study mechanics at Universal Technical Institute in Exton, Pa., Pat and Nick were practically inseparable, and even after he went away, Nick called home every night.
"He would just tell how his day went," Pat said. "He would tell me his problems and we talked about how to solve them. I always told him, 'no matter what we'll work it out together.' We always have. Always have. Right from the beginning. I told him, 'Daddy is always here to protect you. I'll be here, don't worry about it.'"
Nicholas M. Mruczek was born Nov. 26, 1994, in Batavia, the son of Dawn Hinze (now Warner) and Pat Mruczek. He has an older brother, Justin, who at 24 married just a week ago. Nick lived much of his life on Old Creek Road with Pat and Jeanette, whom he called mother, and sister Marissa, now 11.
He took to athletics early and started competing in youth football -- with Pat as one of his coaches -- at age 7.
"We could always tell where Nicholas was on the field because he was the only one who had calves," Pat said. "The other little kids, they had little thin legs, but Nicholas always had these tree-trunk legs so you could always pick Nicholas out no matter where he was."
He loved football, and might have pursued the sport in college, except for a knee injury. He excelled in track and field as a discus thrower and shot putter.
Action was always part of his life, from riding ATVs in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter, to playing Call of Duty with friends on his PlayStation III. Pat describes a boy who just loved life.
"He had a great sense of humor and he had this shitty little grin," Pat said. "His dimples looked like two baby's butt cheeks when he laughed. He gave this little shitty grin. Even when he did something wrong, and he knew he did something wrong, he was hiding something, he would give me that grin and you'd try not to yell at the kid. He would smile with those dimples and it was hard to get mad at him."
Nick also loved to eat, making him a good match for Pat, who loves to cook. In the Mruczek country-style kitchen, a half dozen cast iron skillets hang on the wall above the gas stove. An abundant spice rack hangs on a wall next to the sink.
Nearly every morning, Pat made pancakes for Nick and Marissa. Big pancakes that draped off the plate and were brimming with chocolate chips.
He loved those pancakes, Pat said, and he learned all the words, in Italian, to all the songs on a CD of Italian music Pat played while he cooked breakfast.
"He liked Dominic the Donkey," Pat said. "He loved that one, and Little Pepino the Italian Mouse. He liked Dean Martin."
When Nick was seven and the family was newly settled into the Old Creek Road house, Nick found a hive of bees and was being attacked. Pat ran out and scooped him up in his big arms and wrapped his body around his little boy. CORRECTION: Nick was not living with is father at the time of this incident, as the sentence implies. He was on a visitation.
"I took him around the house and kept getting stung," Pat said. "I kept getting stung he kept yelling, 'Daddy, Daddy,' and I had him with me and I told him, 'It's all right. Don't worry about it.' I said, 'I'll always be here for you. I won't let anything happen to you.' "
As he grew older, Pat would take Nick out to the barn to work on the family tractor or their cars and small engines. He quickly developed a love for taking engines apart and fixing them.
"The first time he changed oil, he got his hands dirty and he thought that was great," Pat said. "He came in and his hands were all oily and he was a mechanic then."
Nick took mechanics classes and BOCES and did well. When he realized he wouldn't be able to play football in college, he was casting about for what to do with his life. Pat asked him to reflect on what he really enjoyed in school and Nick's mind raced back to those BOCES classes. He decided to enroll at UTI where he could study gas and diesel motors with the hope of returning home to work in a local garage, or perhaps at the Chevrolet dealership (he was a Chevy fan), or he could move to Texas, where he has an uncle, and be a diesel mechanic on oil rigs. He also dreamed of working in NASCAR.
"I always told him his told world was in front of him," Pat said. "He could repair gas engines. He could repair diesel. He could go anywhere he wanted. He wouldn't have any trouble finding a job. He just needed to get good grades. That was most important."
Nick struggled at first at UTI. He hadn't been a great student in public school.
"His study habits were lacking and I told him if you listened to mom and dad while you were in school you would have better study habits," Pat said. "He starts laughing. So we explained to him how to study. We told him, make up a rhyme sometimes. Put something you're doing into a rhyme and you will remember it a little bit better. That's how he would do it. He would make up a little rhyme to remember some of his classes. Then his grades shot up."
In eight months, Nick would have graduated from UTI.
Besides finding a job after he graduated, he also planned to work on his blue Pontiac Trans Am. Pat went this Nick to pick out the car, which unless you love muscle cars, doesn't look like much at this point, but Nick called it his "dream car." Pat said, "It needs a lot of work." "I can do it, Dad. I can do it," Nick said.
Pat got new rear tires for it and Nick drove it to Pennsylvania. The next time he came home, the tires were already bald. Nick just laughed about, Pat said.
In Chester County, Nick took a couple of different jobs while at school. He worked at McDonald's, but didn't like the early morning hours. Then he got a job at Longhorns Steakhouse and loved the employee discounts. On days he didn't work, he ate Spam and noodles. On days he worked, he feasted. He would tell his dad, "I'm livin' it. I'm livin' it."
"He called me up a few days after (he started), he told me, 'Dad, this best job I've ever had.' I said 'Why's that.' He said, 'because the food's great.' "
Pat tried to provide his boy with all the tools he would need to succeed in life, including politeness and respect for women.
"I always told the boys in football, always open the door for a lady," Pat said. "Always. Always treat a lady like a lady. You don't ever put your hands on a lady. I always told him, if you ever defended a lady, I'd never be mad at you, Nick. Ever. He did. He always opened a door for a lady."
One of the hobbies Nick and Pat enjoyed the most together was building model trains. In the house on Old Creek Road is a small room dedicated to the display of the trains with a small work bench where Pat and Nick could tinker. The would take trips together, such as to Buffalo, where they could watch the trains and take pictures of locomotives they would later try to duplicate with their models. Sometimes they would go to the sandwash in Batavia and sit near the train tracks collecting pictures of the passing trains and talking. They went to the train shows together and when Nick was still young, Pat bought him old engines, boxcars and cabooses. They would fix them up together and they came up with a name for their own train line. The P&N, which had its own color scheme. Pat still has some of those trains.
The train collection may be the first thing to go, Pat said, as he struggles to come up with the money to pay for Nick's funeral.
"I want to make sure he's buried right," Pat said.
The life of Nicholas Mruczek was cut short, according to authorities in Chester County, by a man who was angry that Nick was dating his ex-girlfriend. On Wednesday evening, the suspect called Nick out of his apartment and after a brief verbal exchange, he allegedly shot Nick at close range with a recently purchased and modified sawed-off shotgun. According to authorities, Zachary Ludwig, 22, of King Street, Spring City, Pa., has confessed to the murder. He is in jail pending further legal proceedings.
Nick was home just a few days before his death for his brother Justin's wedding. Before he left, father and son embraced.
"He always called me his best friend," Pat said. "He always came home and told me, 'You're more than just my dad; you're my best friend.' Jason (Nick's roommate) told me what happened at the end, before he passed, he told Jason, 'Tell my dad, I love him.' It's comforting to know he was thinking of me at the very end."
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral & Cremation Chapel, 4120 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. Calling hours are Tuesday from 3 to 9 p.m., with services Wednesday starting at 9:30 a.m.
Because of the tremendous financial stress Nick's death has placed on the Mruczek family, Pat's friend Brian Odachowski has set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations. He's looking to raise at least $5,000 and nearly $3,000 has already been donated.
Putting into printed words what Pat Mruczek said during our interview captures only a portion of the important meaning. Here is an MP3 file containing excerpts from the interview.
The man accused of shooting Alexander resident Nicholas Mruczek with a shotgun in a fit of jealous rage has been charged with murder, according to the Chester County District Attorney.
Zachary Ludwig, 22, of King Street, Spring City, Pa., is accused of going to the residence of an ex-girlfriend in North Coventry Township, Pa., with a shotgun and firing it at Mruczek at close range.
Ludwig was reportedly upset that Mruczek was with the woman.
"Love and anger can be a dangerous mixture," said DA Tom Hogan in a statement.
The rest of the press release:
On July 15, 2015 at 2:18 a.m., North Coventry Police responded to a call for a shooting at Apartment #218, 858 E. Schuylkill Road, Pottstown, North Coventry Township, Pa. The victim, Nicholas Mruczek, had been shot in the chest and was bleeding heavily.
The victim’s roommates stated that somebody had come over to the apartment and confronted the victim outside. The victim then came back into the apartment with a gunshot wound to the chest. The roommates called the police and attempted to stop the bleeding.
The victim told his roommates that he was dying and to tell the victim’s father that he loved him. The victim stated that “Zach” had shot him. When the police arrived, the victim told them that his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend “Zach” had shot him. The victim was taken to a hospital for surgery. Prior to surgery, the victim informed medical personnel that “Zach L.” shot him. The victim was pronounced dead from the gunshot wound on July 16, 2015.
While the victim was still in surgery, the police located the victim’s girlfriend, whose identity is known to police but is being withheld for security (the “Girlfriend”). The Girlfriend identified “Zach” as the defendant, Zachary Ludwig. She stated that the defendant was her ex-boyfriend, that he was angry about the relationship between her and the victim, and that the defendant owned guns. The defendant previously had stated to the Girlfriend that he would get a “dirty gun” and shoot the victim.
Subsequent investigation by the police revealed the following. The defendant purchased an unregistered .410-bore shotgun approximately two weeks before the shooting. The defendant sawed down the barrel of the shotgun. On the evening of July 14, 2015, the defendant drove by the victim’s residence and observed that the Girlfriend’s car was at the victim’s residence.
After switching vehicles, the defendant later returned to the area of the victim’s apartment in the early morning hours of July 15. The defendant brought the sawed-off shotgun with him. The defendant parked his vehicle in an empty lot away from the apartment complex and walked across a field to the back entrance to the victim’s apartment building. The defendant got the victim to meet with him at the back of the apartment building. The defendant confronted the victim and shot him in the chest with the sawed-off shotgun.
The defendant then returned across the field to his vehicle and fled from the area. He took the sawed-off shotgun to French Creek and threw the shotgun into the water. The defendant then returned to his residence. Police subsequently recovered the shotgun from the stream.
The defendant was arrested by the police while the victim was still alive, and charged with attempted homicide and related charges. Subsequent to the victim’s death, the defendant additionally has been charged with murder. The defendant did not post bail and was remanded to Chester County Prison.
North Coventry Police Chief Robert A. Schurr stated, “This was an excellent cooperative investigation by the North Coventry Police Department and the Chester County Detectives. We extend our condolences to the victim’s family and pledge to keep working on this case until justice is served.”
District Attorney Hogan added, “This was a senseless and premeditated killing. One young man is dead, one young man faces murder charges, and two families are shattered. The only good thing to report is that the North Coventry Police Department and Chester County detectives did an outstanding job to investigate this case rapidly, thoroughly, and professionally.”
This case was investigated by the North Coventry Police Department and the Chester County detectives, with assistance from the West Pottsgrove Police Department, Pottstown Police Department, Spring City Police Department, and East Pikeland Police Department.
UPDATE: According to the Police Criminal Complaint, filed by Chester County Det. Thomas Goggin, Mruczek was living with a man who initially attempted to provide first aid on Mruczek after he was shot in the chest. He was bleeding heavily. Mruczek told the roommate that he thought he was dying and to tell his father he loves him. Mruczek identified Ludwig as the shooter to the roommate and to police once they arrived on scene. He later identified the same person as the shooter to a nurse at the hospital. Ludwig was interviewed after receiving his Miranda warnings that same day. He allegedly admitted to shooting Mruczek. He reportedly said he purchased the shotgun a week or two prior from a fellow employee at his job. He said he used a hacksaw to cut off the barrel in his parents' garage. He said he drove to Mruczek's apartment complex at 5:30 and saw his ex-girlfriend's car there. He went to his parents' house and switched trucks, he said, and drove back to the apartment complex with the .410 shotgun. He parked in an empty lot near an ice cream store. He concealed the shotgun, he said, in a long-sleeve black shirt. Ludwig said he approached the complex from a field in the rear of the building and called for Mruczek to come outside. Mruczek came outside and the two spoke briefly before Ludwig allegedly shot him. Ludwig said he fled the scene and drove to French Creek and tossed the gun into the water and then returned home. Police recovered the shotgun from the creek.
Former classmates and members of the community attended a candlelight vigil at Alexander Central School in memory of Nicholas Mruczek, who died this afternoon.
The vigil was organized by Taylor Quinn, a close friend who graduated with Mruczek. Quinn said he was a big teddy bear and always knew how to make her smile. She remembers cheering for him on the sidelines while he played his heart out on the football field.
Mruczek was a 2012 graduate of Alexander Central School. He was a well-known athlete and a member of the football, wrestling and track teams.
Coming from a small town and a graduating class of 65, everyone knew him and the grin he always had on his face, said Emilee Piechocki. She stated to all those who attended the vigil to remember the good times they shared with him and to keep those memories in their hearts.
Nicholas Mruczek, 20, from Alexander, is in critical condition after he was shot in his apartment in Pottstown, Pa., Wednesday morning.
According to an article from The Mercury, North Coventry Police responded to the scene at Highland Manor Apartments around 2 a.m. and found Mruczek in his apartment with a serious gunshot wound to the chest.
Mruczek was transported to Pottstown Memorial Medical Center and transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital's trauma unit. Hospital staff confirmed he had a collapsed lung.
Mruczek identified the shooter as his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, Zachary Ludwig, 22, of Spring City, Pa. Ludwig allegedly went to Mruczek's apartment Tuesday night and found his ex-girlfriend's car parked outside. Then Ludwig allegedly drove to his home and loaded the barrel of his .410 shotgun and returned to Mruczeck's apartment. Ludwig admitted to police that he had his finger on the trigger when Mruczek grabbed the barrel and the gun discharged.
Ludwig is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, possessing instruments of crime, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. He was put in the Chester County Prison on $500,000 bail.
Mruczek is a graduate of Alexander Middle-High School. He is studying to be an auto mechanic at the Universal Technical Institute in Exton, Pa.
It was a rockin' good time at the Alexander Tractor Pull on Saturday night, including a performance by the band Red Creek. The show marked the 40th anniversary of Fran Norton, a drummer and Alexander resident, playing with the band, perhaps the longest run by a musician with a single band in Genesee County.
"I wanted to let everybody know that the scheduled community movie July 10 at 9:30 p.m.) was still going on tonight at the Alexander Firemen's Grounds on Route 98 South of the Village of Alexander. (It's the animated Spongebob Squarepants' movie "Sponge Out of Water.") Even though we have received rain almost all day. We have decided to move the movie screen in under the tent in the beer stand.
James R. Cooper, 32, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, endangering the welfare of a child and harassment, 2nd. The domestic incident occurred at a residence on State Street, Batavia. Cooper allegedly punched his girlfriend repeatedly and choked her. The dispute happened in front of their three children.
Christina A. Deluna, 35, of Central Avenue, Batavia, is charged with conspiracy, 4th, and criminal nuisance, 1st. Batavia police found Deluna walking in the area of Liberty Street and Ellicott Street. She was turned over to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and held without bail.
Jeffrey M. Currier, 33, of Knowlesville Road, Alabama, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st, assault, 3rd, and criminal obstruction of breathing. The incident occurred on Knowlesville Road. Currier is accused of causing physical injury to another person in violation of an order of protection.
Faye Lone, 56, of Basom, is charged with DWI and resisting arrest, class A misdemeanors, following a traffic stop. Troopers located Lone on Route 5 in Batavia traveling at a slow speed and partially driving on the roadway. After Lone was pulled over, she allegedly refused to cooperate with police. She was put in Genesee County Jail on $250 bail.
Tiffany A. Reed, 20, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd, and criminal mischief, 4th, following a domestic incident on Walnut Street in Batavia. Reed is accused of pushing a person and prevented the person from calling 9-1-1. She also allegedly made verbal threats to physically harm another person.
Christopher G. Landry, 41, of Ross Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd, following a domestic incident on Ross Street. Landry allegedly shoved an individual during an argument.
David M. Schmeider, 21, of Highland Park, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Schmeider is accused of taking 24 cans of Budweiser beer off of a beverage truck when it was making a delivery to the Kwik Fill on Jackson Street in Batavia. Shortly after the incident, he was located at his residence drinking one of the beers and arrested.
Felicia D. Ricks, 43, of Whitesboro Street, Utica, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, 2nd, speeding and insufficient tail lamp following a traffic stop by Officer Stephen Cronmiller on Walnut Street, Batavia. Ricks was put in the Genesee County Jail.
Amanda R. Jurewicz, 29, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Jurewicz's 2-year-old son was allegedly found walking alone on the sidewalk of East Main Street in Batavia wearing only a soiled diaper.
Dahana D. Armstrong, 21, of Fisher Park, Batavia, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, 2nd, criminal possession of marijuana, 5th, operating without insurance and operating without inspection. Armstrong was arrested following an investigation into a traffic stop by Officer Steven Cronmiller on Jackson Street in Batavia,.
Sergio E. Morales, 20, of Rochester, was arrested for unlawful possession of marijuana. Troopers allegedly detected the smell of marijuana after pulling over the vehicle for a traffic stop on Route 98 in Alexander. Morales was a passenger in the vehicle.
Robert E. Saari, 33, of Alleghany Road, Attica, was arrested on a bench warrant issued by the City of Batavia following a traffic stop on Main Street in Batavia. Saari allegedly failed to appear for an aggravated unlicensed operation ticket.
Patrick J. Woodrich, 44, of West Main Street Road, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant issued by the City of Batavia for allegedly failing to appear for a third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation charge. Woodrich was located following a traffic stop on Clinton Street Road, Batavia, by Officer James DeFreze.
Ted E. Kingsley, 42, of Sandpit Road, Alexander, was arrested on a bench warrant in the parking lot behind the City of Batavia Police Department. Kingsley allegedly failed to pay a fine.
Allen M. Barlow, 28, of Glenhaven Drive, Amherst, was issued an appearance ticket for allegedly leaving a dog in a vehicle in extreme heat for at least one hour on Route 77 in Darien.
Similar sentiments echoed from family, friends and the community with respect to Douglas Mess.
“He was an amazing guy.”
“A big teddy bear.”
“He would do anything for anyone.”
“He loved family.”
“He was an excellent mechanic.”
A spaghetti dinner and raffle was held Saturday to help Mess’s four sons, Douglas, Matthew, Michael, and James. The four men lost both their parents in an incident that shook the Attica community.
“It’s nice to see the community coming together for this,” said event organizer Jackie Murphy. “But by the same token, this shouldn’t have had to happen.”
The fundraiser was held at the Alexander Firemen’s Recreation Center, Alexander. All proceeds go to the brothers to help with living expenses. According to Murphy, the support from the community has been overwhelming.
“Everything has been donated by community members and local businesses,” Murphy said. “The response has been wonderful, from setting up this event to just asking ‘how ya doing?’ It’s just been amazing.”
“I wasn’t expecting the response we got,” said Gina Olszewski, Matthew’s girlfriend. “The support from the community is awesome. It’s such a horrible situation and it’s nice to have the support we’ve received.”
Tom Gadd worked with Doug for 14 years at Alexander Equipment and viewed the man like a brother.
“He was just an amazing guy; a great guy. That sums it up right there,” Gadd said.
“He’s been proud to see the support,” Olszewski said.
According to the elder Mess’s son Doug, he was a “shop man dictionary.”
Michael and James describe their father as happy and caring.
Douglas Mess was found murdered April 20 on the farm he and his wife of 30 years owned in Attica. Charlene Mess is charged with his murder and is currently being held in the Wyoming County Jail in lieu of $1 million cash bail or $2 million bond. She is due in court Aug. 6.
“We are extremely grateful,” James said. “There has been lots of support from an extremely caring community.”
The last text he sent, before hitting an Amish buggy with three children inside, was "I love you" to his wife. He's not even sure if he was looking at the road at the time of the accident. The next thing he knew, the windshield shattered and when he stopped, a person rolled off the roof of his van and onto the hood.
Debbie was struck by a teen who was texting while getting her mail from her roadside mailbox. She now has limited mobility, memory loss and other health issues. The accident left her entirely dependent on relatives. Debbie doesn't remember the accident at all. She went from being active to inactive in a just a second.
“I made the choice that texting was more important to me than those two men were to their families,” said a young man. “That accident was preventable. I just had to put my phone away and drive.”
These stories and others were shown to Alexander and Warsaw high school students Friday during the Save a Life, Alcohol Awareness tour program at Alexander High School. The presentation, given by tour manager Clay Martin, is to put a spotlight on what drivers do in their cars -- it matters, even if there are no passengers.
“There's no message that would be worth picking up that phone,” Martin said. “Remember, many people may not get a chance to see these videos, but if you make it a point to remember, the avalanche of waiting until it's safe to write that text will propel and maybe it will start a chain of safer driving.”
The Save A Life Tour is a comprehensive high-impact, safe-driving awareness program that informs, educates and demonstrates the potentially deadly consequences resulting from poor choices and decisions made by a driver. The program specifically places emphasis on distracted and impaired driving, driver experience, improper driver behavior, and seat belt usage. The Department of Defense, as well as the Connecticut and Rhode Island departments of transportation, also use this program.
“All good driving begins with making simple habits,” Martin said. “Most people pick up their cell phone at a stop light, but most accidents occur at an intersection. You have to be prepared and pay attention. You have to be aware of not only your actions but those who are around you as well.”
Just a few seconds of distraction can take you the distance of a football field when driving at 55 mph. According to Martin, a drunk driver has driven 327 times before something happens. In 2012, a total of 3,326 people died in distracted-driving-related accidents and more than 421,000 people sustained injuries.
Alcohol has an amazing way of blurring the consequences, Martin told the teens. “Alcohol gets silly names like 'liquid courage' and 'beer muscles', but what it really does is put a barrier between you and a rational choice.
“There is a list of people in your phone that you can call for a ride,” Martin said. “I bet if you start in the As, by the time you reach the Cs you could have someone willing to pick you up on Christmas Day during a snowstorm.”
Not only did the students view a presentation, two simulators were set up for them to try to experience what it was like when the driver is distracted behind the wheel or has been drinking.
“It was hard to do,” said Alexander Middle/High School Principal Shannon Whitcomb. “It got more difficult as I kept going.”
“I think it has an impact. I don't know that we can determine how much, but you can tell by the attentiveness of our students that they were learning from the presentation and hopefully help them with choices in their future,” said Alexander School Superintendent Kathleen Maerten. “It’s providing education in a realistic manner. The experiential part is certainly important. The stories shared on the video have an impact as well. I think his point is that, even if you're not the driver and you're the passenger, you can advise the driver. The responsibility is not only in the hands of the driver it's the passengers as well.”
Alexander High School senior Raven Quackenbush said “The scariest thing about it is something happening to my family. I’d rather it happen to me, than the ones I care about.”
“I have texted when I was driving and I swerved, but I don't do that anymore,” said Alexander senior Jessica Meyers. “I'm so aware of what I'm doing that it's not worth it. When you're driving with other people that are in your car, you're responsible for their lives. I appreciate it when parents trust me.”
Quackenbush said: “You have to ask yourself -- 'Is this more important than my life?' It's not too hard to say hey, can you check that for me. You can pull over for five seconds.”
The Alexander Central School Parent Teacher Association sponsored the program as a way to remind students to make good decisions.
“It’s especially important because our prom is next weekend,” said Alexander Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) student President Hunter Doran. “We know that there will be those who decide to drink.”
“We just want them to be safe,” said SADD Advisor Shawnie Woeller. “You're not always going to hit them all. I've been doing this for so long that it use to bother me, but I have to take the stand that if we can affect one kid’s life, it does make a difference.”
“It resonates with me every time I watch this,” Doran said. “I don't ever want to have to deal with it, but the possibility is that I may have to. I want to educate myself as much as possible.
I have no problem telling someone to stop. I see these people every day, I don't want them to end up in a hospital because of it (distracted/drunk driving).”
“I want to be an example,” Woeller said. “I want to remind kids that there is a way to have fun, but you have to know when to stop."
According to Whitcomb, the kids can make the connection between the selfishness of taking their phone out to text while driving. Any way getting the word out works, different presentations affect different kids.
“I don't think we give kids enough credit,” Whitcomb said. “We just need to give them the information and trust the will make good choices.”
“Other families matter, too,” said Warsaw High School Junior Ashley Scott. “I wouldn’t get in a vehicle with anyone drinking, I would take their keys away.”
“I think it’s cool that they gave the stories and then let the kids use the simulators,” said Warsaw ELA teacher Jen Smith. “They way they set this up was perfect. Even though our prom is over with, the summer is starting and you have grad parties. It’s a good way to end the year as a reminder.
“This should also be shown to adults. It would be a benefit. I don't think you can get enough of stuff like this,” Smith said. “I wonder if people even really think about it until it affects their community or family.”
According to SRO officer at Warsaw Central School Tim McGinnis, it’s a good barometer of what can happen if a driver decides to text or drink and drive. McGinnis agrees that it absolutely makes the kids see a reality of what can happen. While he said that it sometimes may take time for the information to really hit them and sink in, he’s hoping it is a deterrent to poor choices, which can have long-term effects on everyone.
“It helped me realize that it can impact more than just a driver,” said Warsaw junior Nate McGuire. “I felt sorry for them at first. It shows the impact of one very small moment and how it can impact the rest of their lives.”
“My favorite feedback I get is when the kids come back and tell me they had a conversation about this in another class,” Martin said. “That's what we want the kids to do, get talking about it. Those stories represent the people who are affected.”
“It’s not even tempting for me to drink if I’m going to drive,” Quackenbush said.
“I don’t care what people think if I don’t drink,” Meyers said.
Both girls said there is so much more to do with their time.