Recently Middletown students were in attendance to learn about the dangers of drinking and driving, especially now during prom season.

But often enough I get the impression that these lessons fall by the wayside.


Because kids being kids think they’re indestructible.

Sure, students have to go to these sessions on how partying can get out of control; but my thinking is that if it causes one less student to lose his or her life on the road, then it was a lesson worth learning.

Kathleen Basilicato, who lost her son from a drunk driving accident in 2006 across from Christian Brothers Academy, mustered up her strength and spoke about the incident to the school’s students recently at Rude Awakening, an anti-drinking and driving campaign for Middletown high school students.

Rude Awakening, which Middletown public safety officials have run for about two decades, what happens on a crash scene and in the hospital afterward and the emotional toll it takes the survivors.

Rude Awakening is a joint effort by Middletown police, fire, office of emergency management, emergency medical service and community volunteers. It’s funded through the state Department of Highway Traffic Safety.

A number of students shielded their eyes as Molly Berkowitz, the trauma injury prevention coordinator at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, showed the students the images of car crashes and the injuries that resulted from drunken driving.

Middletown public safety staff followed it up with a demonstration of how they respond to a crash.

Students also learned the impact alcohol has on their motor skills by trying to shoot basketballs and drive golf carts through a traffic cone-lined course while wearing special goggles that simulate intoxication.

The students joked and needled each other as they each took turns tossing up wide air balls at the hoops and inched along the golf cart course and still ran over the orange traffic cones.

And even though they were having fun with the activity, the students said they got the message of how significant an impact alcohol can have on their ability to function.

Mike Kelly, 17, from Middletown, who said he was already planning to have an alcohol-free prom before the presentation said…“I hit quite a few (cones). It was super hard. I was seeing a lot of double.” “I think this is good for everyone, especially the kids that do drink under age. No one should drink and drive because it’s harmful for everyone.”

Harmful to everyone indeed. Not least of all the parents that get that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night, like the one Kathleen Basilicato received saying her 17 year old was involved in a drunken driving accident.

I only hope it’s a lesson that’s learned, and not the hard way either. Again, if it saves one more life than may have been lost last year, it is a success.