Impaired driving continues to be a leading cause in fatal car crashes across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one person will die every 51 minutes in a car crash involving impaired driving. The state of Rhode Island remains one of the worst offenders in impaired driving; according to the 2010 Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Rhode Island ranks 46th in the nation in percentage of fatalities that are DUI related.
Students at two Warwick high schools are looking to do something about it by bringing attention to the dangers of drinking and driving while mixing up some great tasting nonalcoholic drinks, or mocktails.
Since its inception in 1983, the Rhode Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has provided victim support and raised public awareness with various events. Mocktail brings together high school SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) groups from all across the state. At the beginning of the school year, students are assigned an adopted “victim,” a Rhode Island native who was either killed or seriously injured by a drunk driver. In preparation for Mocktail, students work on a presentation (usually a poster of some kind) and a “mocktail” that represents their victim but also caters to Mocktail’s theme, which changes every year. At Mocktail, students share their presentations and drinks with fellow high school SADD groups and try to impress the judges. Mocktail emphasizes to young people that they can have fun without alcohol.
Two Warwick schools are participating in this year’s Mocktail competition. Pilgrim High School is honoring Narragansett native Katie DeCubellis, who was 13 when she was killed in a drunk driving crash. Bishop Hendricken High School Youth Taking Action Club is honoring North Kingstown native Jeffrey Monica, who was 19 when he was killed in a drunk driving crash.
Many students in both Pilgrim and Hendricken’s groups have been to Mocktail before.
Hendricken senior Burke White says what he likes most about Mocktail is how they get to connect to the victims’ families. Fellow senior Zach Nault says that while there is the competitive aspect, it’s not cutthroat.
“We’re all still friends. We’re all there for the same cause,” he said.
Many students in the Pilgrim SADD group have yet to experience Mocktail, and are all very excited. Sophomore Brianna Tuscani is especially looking forward to the judges’ and families’ reactions to the presentations and drinks.
Tuscani says that the whole group can relate to Katie because she was caring and always reaching out to someone. By being in SADD, Tuscani says, they all want to make a difference in the community, like Katie did.
“Katie was nice to people who didn’t have any friends; she made connections with people who didn’t have anything in common with her,” sophomore Sarah Reiley said.
The Hendricken group can also relate to their victim, Jeffrey, who was competitive and motivated in everything he did, whether it was sports, academics or jobs.
“Coming from an all-guys school that is very competitive, we can definitely relate to him,” junior Marco DelVecchio said.
Jeffrey Monica is different from most of the victims that MADD adopts, in that he was the impaired driver at the time of the crash.
“It just shows you that MADD has respect not just for victims [of other drunk drivers], but for people who engaged in the act [of drunk driving] and their families,” DelVecchio said.
Group advisor Laura Reynolds, the school’s social worker, said, “Mrs. Monica [Jeffrey’s mother] is a victim as well. A lot of people get hurt.”
Team president, senior Tim Desmarais, said, “One bad decision can change your life.”
This year’s Mocktail competition is Thursday, April 12 at Amica Insurance in Lincoln. It starts at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.