In 2008, Lt. Keith Duncan of Bartow County Emergency Medical Services produced a video featuring local high school students killed in a car crash the night of prom. It is being shown this week at all three Bartow County high schools, who are having their respective proms this weekend.
The video, called "Last Dance," depicts two students who are driving to prom together and applying safe driving tactics behind the wheel, like not using electronic mobile devices or drugs and alcohol, juxtaposed to three teens who are doing the exact opposite.
The vehicles collide, killing all involved except for the intoxicated driver, depicted as a high school dropout.
In an effort to show students the impact an untimely death can have on the student body during a normal school day, Duncan has four students selected by the schools to wear corpse makeup and black T-shirts that read "This Could Be You!" for the "Ghost Out" program. He said these students are supposed to represent the teens killed in the video.
"We make the kids up like corpses and they have to walk around school the remainder of the day," Duncan said. "They can't talk to anybody because they're supposed to be dead."
Duncan said the department used to present a simulated wreck scene at area high schools, but having a video made the message easier to deliver.
"Everything is so fast-paced now, we don't have the people available to do [the simulation] on the spur of the moment," Duncan said.
He said he hopes for a new video to be completed by next year's prom festivities.
"Every public service department in Bartow County was involved in the filming of our previous video," Duncan said.
He said the video is a positive, even though it addresses a topic parents might not necessarily want to address.
"It's a really good thing for our kids," Duncan said. "When we did [the video], we tried to compile some statistics and Georgia has 159 counties and Bartow County was ranked number five in teen driving fatalities, and that's a substantial ranking we really don't want to be high up in."
Duncan said although it is up to each student to make their own choices, there have been no teen fatalities on prom since the department began showing the video.
"Now, we can't attribute [zero fatalities] to our video, but we can't take it away either," Duncan said.
On Wednesday, Sgt. Alex Wright with Bartow County EMS reiterated this information to juniors and seniors at Woodland High School.
"Y'all keep me honest, OK?" Wright said to the crowd. "The theme we have each year is making good decisions ... drinking and driving is not the only thing that puts you at risk when you're on the road."
He emphasized the potentially deadly distractions teens can face on the road that aren't drugs or alcohol.
"I know everybody in here can probably text several hundred words a minute, but there is a time for that sort of thing," Wright joked with the crowd.
The joking ended quickly, when Wright had students look to their right and left, and asked them to think of how it would feel if one of those students was not in attendance Monday due to a car accident caused by intoxicated or distracted driving.
"The last time you would have spoken [to the student] would be on Friday or Saturday night, and it gets a bit serious when you think of it that way," Wright said.
Seniors Chelsea Royal and Ainsley Faulk were chosen to participate in the Ghost Out program. They said the video was "scary" because it was filmed in Bartow County using Bartow County EMS and depicted teens being killed at no fault of their own.
Royal said both "Last Dance" and the Ghost Out program were good for students, adding she heard a classmate recently got in "some trouble" related to drugs and alcohol.
"I think [Ghost Out] is a good way to get the message across," Royal said.
Faulk echoed Royal's statement. "I think people don't realize it could be your friends, it could be the girl you sit next to in class ... I think it's a good thing to realize it could be [my friends] who could be gone Monday."
The latest statistic available at press time for teen driving fatalities was in 2008 provided by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. The office reports 15 vehicle fatalities in 2009.