At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.

Teaching students about driving dangers

Safe driving program “VIP for a VIP” impacts students in partnership with EMS and local law enforcement.

Harris Regional Hospital, which provides Emergency Medical Services for Jackson County, recently participated in a safe driving program for students at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva. 

The program, called Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person — or, “VIP for a VIP” — is targeted toward young adults. It involves local law enforcement, fire departments, and rescue organizations, including Harris Regional Hospital EMS, to present an informative program to young drivers in an effort to promote motor vehicle safety and prevent fatal accidents.

The program stresses the hazards of driving while texting or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Students are encouraged to consider all risks associated with unsafe driving habits and are presented with facts and figures directly related to fatalities of young drivers in North Carolina during the last several years.

The program also included a dramatic, real-time reenactment of a vehicle accident involving a teenage. The reenactment gave students a look into the perspective of all those who would be involved, including a nearby pedestrian, first responders, law enforcement, highway patrol, emergency medical care workers, and the driver’s parents and friends.

EMS Director Steven Rice participated in the reenactment as an Emergency Medical Technician arriving on the scene of the wreck.

“As those involved in emergency situations involving vehicles on a daily basis, we want to do everything possible to educate our community, especially young people, about the hazards and consequences of unsafe driving habits,” Rice said. “While we are dedicated to being there as quickly as possible when something happens, our greatest desire is that we don’t get the call in the first place. Programs like “VIP for a VIP” help to ensure that.”

Following the program, students were asked to complete and sign two contracts, one committing to a zero-tolerance for drugs and alcohol, and one entitled “VIP contract for the life of a VIP”, with which, by signing, students promised to abide by certain safety measures to ensure welfare while operating a vehicle.

“Our Emergency Medical Services team is highly trained to respond to motor vehicle accidents and work quickly to provide care for those involved, but it is our hope that accidents are prevented at all costs,” said Anetra Jones, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital Chief Nurse Executive. “We were honored to participate in this program and to play a role in the prevention of potential accidents.

Go to top