Event demonstrates the ‘Sudden Impact’ of distracted driving to Choudrant High students

By Emma Stone

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 2,800 teens in the United States ages 13–19 were killed and about 227,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. 

A mock trial hosted at Choudrant High School last week enlightened students into what a real court case based on distracted driving looks like.

In conjunction with the Louisiana State Police program named “Sudden Impact,” the mock trial featured student actors playing the scene of a trial.

The trial was a follow-up to a mock car crash Choudrant students watched in November of last year. The scene depicted two staged vehicles that had crashed from a head-on collision. 

The panel of jurors was the Choudrant student body with Judge Wendell Manning of the 4th Judicial District for Ouachita Parish acting as judge.

Testimonies and witnesses were played by state troopers and police officers. 

Attorneys from Lincoln Parish acted out the mock court case to demonstrate the environment with pieces of a courtroom and props provided by “Sudden Impact.”

Jessica Bryan, Choudrant High School’s counselor, said it is important to teach high school students how criminal case proceedings occur and how that affects decision-making.

“The goal of the mock trial was for students to learn about the long-term consequences of their actions,” Bryan said, “and make better and safer decisions for the future.”

After two hours of testimony, the defendant was charged with 10-15 years in prison for negligent homicide.

Valerie Chatellier, a Choudrant High School student, felt that the experience gave her a large impact on consequences.

“Watching this production made me realize how hard one bad decision can be on just the victims, but the people around the victims,” Chatellier said.

A panel was opened to the students after the trial in which students were given the option to ask questions.

“Rather than being reactive to distracted driving, we wanted to implement a program to be proactive for students,” Bryan said. 

“Sudden Impact” provided the equipment for each mock scenario that involved smoke machines, furniture, speakers and much more. 

Javier Leija, Public Information Officer for Troop F of the Louisiana State Police, coordinated the materials to be used in the mock trial and found the students’ experiences to be eye-opening. 

“The students were very in tune with the mock trial as if they were watching a movie,” Leija said. 

“Sudden Impact” originated in New Orleans and expanded across Northeast Louisiana parishes working to show the “sudden impact” of real-life scenarios for students.