Monday, August 26, 2002

Car-crash film updated after 44 years

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS - The crumpled fenders and crushed doors look the same, but the blood is now in color. After almost 45 years, the state has produced a new version of Signal 30, the movie of horrific car crashes that many teen drivers see before they get their licenses.

        The original Signal 30 - police radio code for a fatal crash - was produced in 1959 and became a staple of driver's education courses over the years.

        Like the updated version, it showed graphic images of real car crashes and the resulting carnage.

        Making a more modern film was never a priority, partly because demand for the movie remained high, said Ashley Ellis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety.

        The new version, being released Monday, holds little back and contains several bloody scenes of deaths and injuries from violent accidents.

        It starts with a punch: Kenneth Morckel, superintendent of the State Highway Patrol, tells viewers, “If you are between the ages of five and 34 years old, a motor vehicle crash is most likely the way you will die.”

        Perhaps the most moving part of the 18-minute video is an emotional interview at the end with Carrie Satterfield, whose twin sister Terri was killed in an April crash near Xenia.

        Portions of that crash are seen earlier, including footage of a devastated Carrie getting the news from a trooper.

        “It's really hard to get up in the morning to know that I'm not going to see her,” Ms. Satterfield says on-screen. “She was my best friend, she was everything to me, and she's gone.”

        Driving class instructor Sharon Gaston watched the original film when she was a teenager and uses it in her classes today. The update is overdue, she said.

        “It doesn't really get the message across,” said Ms. Gaston, 40, owner of First Class Driving Academy in Mount Vernon.

        “All the kids focus on how old the cars are, and everybody's clothing and hairstyles,” she said. “They're not really looking as if it was happening today.”

        Deaths of drivers aged 16-20 have stayed about steady, with 211 in 1997 and 202 last year, Public Safety Department statistics show.

        But crash injuries among the same group have dropped sharply, from 39,418 in 1997 to 24,867 last year.

        Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor attributes that to an increased emphasis statewide on using seat belts and slowing down.

        “So it's not just saving lives, although that is a critical part of the mission, but it's reducing injuries as well,” said Ms. O'Connor, Public Safety Department director.

        The free video, which cost the state about $2,000, is being sent to driving schools, high schools, courts, community groups and others starting Monday.

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