RUMFORD — Nearly 230 juniors and seniors at Mountain Valley High School got a reality check Wednesday afternoon when Rumford police simulated a drunken driving stop.
Using Assistant Principal Chris Decker’s sporty red Audi, which was parked on stage in Muskie Auditorium, two MVHS students pretended to be intoxicated inside to give students an idea about the process and how costly fines can be.
“This is going to be a mock OUI mock arrest, OUI stop, so they’re going to go through it just like they would out on the street,” Sgt. Tracey Higley said prior to the presentation.
“This program’s all about honesty and straightforwardness, so they’re going to see everything about what it’s like and what they will go through if they have (alcohol).”
“If that means they’re going to spend time practicing, whatever, we don’t care because they need to know what this is all about,” he said.
“An 18-year-old senior — not a Mountain Valley student — but from another school, was just arrested for OUI and that was within this week, so they’re going to see what this is like.”
He was referring to Jill Schnorr of Dixfield, who was arrested early Sunday morning by Rumford police on charges of OUI, illegal possession of alcohol by a minor, and operating beyond license restrictions on Waldo Street in Rumford.
Two 17-year-old Dixfield girls, who police say were with Schnorr, were also charged with illegal possession of alcohol by a minor.
Students watched attentively from their seats, laughing several times at the actions of their classmates David Adley, 18, and Justin White, 17, both of Rumford. The two acted a bit inebriated as Sgt. Douglas Maifeld and Cpl. Lawrence Winson conducted the simulation.
“I think it’s a good experience to let the whole school know what happens when you are caught drinking and driving to make sure you don’t do it,” Adley said. “It’s a lot of trouble and you’re putting other people’s lives in danger. … It happens all the time.”
“Plus, it shows everyone what really happens because no one knows until they go through it, and all the consequences and fines,” White said.
Maifeld asked driver Adley a series of questions aimed at determining if he was drunk, and then focused on passenger White, who held an empty bottle of beer on the seat between his legs.
Several questions later, Maifeld asked Adley to get out of the car. He then conducted field sobriety tests, checking the pupils of Adley’s eyes and making him walk a straight line before handcuffing the youth and leading him away.
Maifeld then questioned White before Winson ran a Breathalyzer check on him. White was then summoned on a charge of illegal possession of alcohol.
The officers then conducted a question-and-answer session. Students asked if someone legally taking medical marijuana is still be able to drive their car?
Winson said no.
“If you’re under the effects of marijuana, don’t operate your car or you can be arrested,” he said.
The program is part of the high school’s Keeping Students Safe program that Higley and Maifeld and school officials launched three years ago.
Keeping Students Safe is a program aimed at helping young people make good choices. It began at the high school three years ago after a major underage drinking party took place in neighboring Roxbury the year before.
“It’s not so much that that started it,” Higley said.
“I mean it did, but it was the attitude and the people saying, ‘It’s the cops’ fault. No, it’s the parents’ fault. No, it’s the school’s fault, and nobody would take responsibility, so four of us said, ‘We’ve got to do something. What are we going to do?’ And this is four years later.”
“I think it’s extremely important that the kids understand about choices — good choices and bad choices,” Assistant Principal Decker said afterward.
“My goal is to have the students understand life’s about choices. I was very impressed with the audience. They were very attentive and they asked very good questions.”
“Now I’ve just got to figure out how to get my car off the stage,” Decker said.
Wednesday was the first time police had a real car on stage during the simulation. Normally, they do the segment outside, but it was raining.