Gowanda holds pre-prom safety presentation

Submitted Photos Bethany A. Solek, Assistant District Attorney for the Vehicular Crimes Bureau of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, spoke about the impact of impaired driving at a pre-prom safety presentation earlier this week at Gowanda High School.

GOWANDA – As dozens of students from Gowanda High School are anticipating the junior-senior prom on Saturday in Lackawanna, District administration facilitated a sobering safety presentation this week ahead of the annual dance and celebration.

All Gowanda High School students attending prom gathered Tuesday in the auditorium for an informative overview about the dangers of drunk, drugged and dangerous driving. Students were reminded about how a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely is impaired through narcotics, hallucinogens, cannabis and other substances.

The first person to speak to the group was Gary Klumpp of the Erie County Victim Impact Panel, whose disclosure that he has been sober for a decade was met with applause from the students. A self-described “failure,” Klumpp is a two-time felon who was pulled over by police twice for driving while impaired and brought with him the bottle of vodka he had in his vehicle the last time he was apprehended by the authorities.

“Your life can change in the snap of your fingers,” Klumpp told the students, detailing the shame, family estrangements and financial difficulties that accompanied his arrests. “Please be safe and make the best choices.”

Tim Christian of the Office of the Crash Investigation Unit of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office has been a police officer for 20 years.

Gowanda High School students signed their names on a poster after a pre-prom safety presentation earlier this week to pledge to be safe at prom this weekend.

“My day begins when someone else’s ends,” Christian told the students, alluding to the aftermath of the numerous fatal accidents he has overseen and detailing what a crash response looks like.

Christian recommended the students act responsibly and “just be smart” when making decisions about their personal safety.

“I can’t stand going to a parent’s house,” he said. “It is the worst when they drop to the floor” after he tells them their child is dead.

Suggestions for how to stay safe when drinking also include planning a safe way home in advance and never driving after drinking, designating a sober driver, using a taxi or ride share service or public transportation, and always wearing a seat belt.

Bethany A. Solek, Assistant District Attorney for the Vehicular Crimes Bureau of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, spoke about the impact of impaired driving. She suggested students always have a plan or excuse for why they aren’t drinking: They are on medication, they have to wake up early for work, they are using a borrowed car, etc.

Solek also discussed some of New York State’s most egregious impaired driving offenders and the severe consequences for their bad behavior including long prison sentences.

“No time will ever be enough and the family (of the deceased) will live that nightmare for the rest of their lives,” said Solek.

All attendees of the pre-prom safety presentation were welcome to sign a “We promise to drive and act responsibly at prom” pledge.

The pre-prom presentation was facilitated by GHS staff including school social worker Miranda Hirschman, school counselor Jen Mattimore, teacher and SADD advisor Shannon Styles, technology integrator Ed Bugenhagen, Assistant Principal David Smith and Principal Rebekah Moraites.


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