Forever Changed Crash Simulation for Teens

Learning to drive is a privilege for teenagers, and getting a driver’s license is a status symbol. It’s a time of independence and exciting possibilities. It’s also a time of great risk — traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 15-19.

The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. According to the American Automobile Association, getting teens together in a car multiplies the risk. According to the American Medical Association, three out of 10 teens that die are killed in motor vehicle crashes, and half of those crashes involve the use of alcohol or drugs.

Other factors that contribute to a high crash rate among young drivers are driving inexperience, risk-taking behaviors, poor driving judgment and excessive driving during high-risk hours.

Commitment to Injury Prevention

The staff of the Level I Trauma Center at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin is committed to injury prevention throughout our community. In an effort to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths among teens, the Trauma Program created Forever Changed, a program aimed at high school junior and senior students.

The program, which features a mock car crash, takes a serious look at teenage drinking, driving and risk-taking behaviors. Coordinated by Trauma Program staff, Forever Changed also includes involvement from emergency response services in southeastern Wisconsin.

Real Crash Simulation

In the first part of the simulation, a two-car crash scene, using actual crashed vehicles, is staged on the school grounds. The crash involves a driver under the influence and another on a cell phone. Students act as crash victims, complete with “injuries.”

Police officers respond to the collision and assess the situation. Local emergency medical services dispatch fire trucks and ambulances. The teen victims are treated according to their injuries. Flight For Life may arrive on the scene to airlift a critically injured victim. The police perform a field sobriety test, and the student is frisked, placed in handcuffs and driven away in a squad car.

A fatality is staged at the scene, and the local medical examiner arrives. The deceased student is placed in a body bag and taken away in a hearse/medical examiner vehicle. The students then return to their classes, except for the student actors.

In the second part of the simulation, the students reassemble in the afternoon and the student actors appear on stage with their injuries. The students view a video about the effects of drunk driving. A Trauma Program staff member then describes the impact of each injury to the individual. A parent of the “deceased” student writes a letter about what life will be like without his or her child, and the “deceased” child writes a letter about what he or she would miss in his or her life. Those letters are read to the assembled students.

Program Requirements

The Trauma Center at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin offers Forever Changed as a free community service.The two- to three-hour program is offered in the spring (April and May) and fall (September and October).

The program has a greater impact on students if school staff keeps the nature of the program confidential. To present the program, a school must have:

  • An outdoor assembly area, such as a track/football field with room for a variety of vehicles (crash cars, ambulance, police cars, fire truck, Flight For Life and medical examiner’s truck).
  • An indoor assembly area for the afternoon portion of the program.

Staff from the Trauma Center meet in advance with the principal to discuss the program and determine if certain students should not participate (based on personal events in their lives). School counselors are also involved in program planning and are available for students who may need emotional support. The school is asked to select five or six students to volunteer as crash victims, and the students receive advance instruction on their roles.

If you are interested in having Forever Changed at your school or would like more information, please call 414-805-3666 or 800-272-3666.