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Police Stop Using Students To Portray Dead Bodies In Traffic Class

June 3, 1986

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ A girl’s faked, bloody death during a safety demonstration left some fellow students hysterical, so police have decided students no longer will portray victims of mock drunken-driving accidents.

A new policy calls for outsiders, perhaps workers from the county coroner’s office, to play the part of supposedly dead victims in the staged accidents, said Rick Riddle, traffic education officer for the Riverside Police Department.

The drills have been staged throughout Riverside County for the past two years.

Riddle said Monday that police officials decided last week to stop using students because the faked death of a 14-year-old freshman at Norte Vista High School triggered hysteria among a few fellow students.

After the May 21 incident, Riverside psychologist Dick Dodge criticized the use of students to portray dead people, saying: ″I don’t like the idea that their emotions are invaded upon by this tactic. It’s an emotional rape is what it is.″

Police, with the cooperation of Norte Vista High administrators, had staged a drunken-driving accident just before lunch hour. The girl pretended to be a pedestrian killed in the accident.

While she lay in the street with theatrical blood dripping from her head and body, other students played the parts of weeping witnesses.

That drew unknowing students to the scene, where they watched police arrested the mock drunken driver and place the supposedly dead girl in a body bag. Some students began to cry, a few hysterically.

During the next class period, students were told the accident was a demonstration. Some parents later complained.

Riddle said that in most previous drunken driving drills, outsiders have played the parts of victims. Students served in only a few cases, including the Norte Vista High drill. In those cases, the decision to use students was made after outsiders who were scheduled to play the parts of victims were unable to participate, Riddle said.

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