By KAREN PARKER | County Line Publisher

I am not quite sure what I expected from the mock crash held at Brookwood on Sept. 23. A cynical old lady, I anticipated being mildly amused and probably a bit bored.

But an odd thing happened on my way to blasé. The tarp was drawn aside, revealing the mangled cars and the even more mangled bodies, and within minutes I began to feel alternately edgy and queasy. The grim silence of the several hundred students behind me added to my discomfort.

Time slowed nearly to a stop. A little voice in my head began screaming, (pardon my French) “Where in the hell is the damned ambulance?”

I found myself pacing, waiting anxiously, and sucked into the scene unfolding before me.

It wasn’t until afterward that I tied my reaction to my own fading memory of a similar scene. That time, instead of the bright daylight of the Brookwood parking lot, it was a dark and drizzly night. Along with three friends, I traveled to Madison to watch a movie. It was “Goldfinger,” a movie that made a big splash at the time. It was August, and all four of us were college-bound and likely would see little of one another in the future.

In this case, we hadn’t been drinking. But the roads were rain-slicked, and our inexperienced driver might have taken a curve too quickly. This was before cars had seatbelts, and when the vehicle slammed into a tree, we all went sailing. I catapulted from the backseat and slammed into the windshield. The engine was pushed into the passenger compartment, giving the girl in the front seat serious leg injuries. Our driver sustained a badly broken arm. Only my fellow backseat passenger got off with a few minor scratches.

At home in Monroe, Wis., my mother heard the ambulance scream. She recalled later that she had known it was for me and had gotten out of bed, gotten dressed and waited for the hospital staff to call.

I suspect a large percent of readers either has been in an auto accident or knows someone who has. From that, we know that auto accidents are no laughing matter. Convincing teens of that is a challenge. We have been trying for a long time. Way back in my ancient high school days, I saw gruesome filmstrips and heard the first-hand testimonials from those who had been there and lived to tell about it. And, yes, in a school as large as Monroe High School, we buried a few classmates as well.

We now know that the adolescent brain is still under construction. Science tells us that the parts of the brain involved in emotional responses are fully online, or even more active than they are in adults, while the parts of the brain involved in keeping emotional, impulsive responses in check are still reaching maturity. Such a changing balance, they note, might provide clues to a youthful appetite for novelty and a tendency to act on impulse without regard for risk.

Statistics bear that out. Mortality rates jump between early and late adolescence. Death rates by injury between ages 15 to 19 are about six times that of the rate between ages 10 and 14. Crime rates are highest among young males, and rates of alcohol abuse are high relative to those of other ages.

Nothing has really changed except technology. Our ancestors probably got juiced up on hard apple cider and then fell off their horses. Our children get behind the wheel of a powerful machine capable of zooming along at 100 mph. Add alcohol and now texting, and is it any wonder that car crashes are the leading cause of death in teenagers?

Do scare tactics really work with teens? The jury is still out on that one.

Pediatrician Flaura Koplin Winston is scientific director for the Center for Injury and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a public health researcher. She says scare tactics may grab attention but do nothing to help build the skills needed to drive safely.

Auto insurance company State Farm agrees. The hospital and the insurance company have launched a campaign focusing on the positive. They call it “Celebrate My Drive.” The program works with schools to teach kids how to make smart choices and offers incentives and prizes to schools that hop on board.

My philosophy is, “Whatever works, do it.” In any event, the local fire, rescue and police departments deserve a big hats-off for their efforts last week. It was very apparent that a great deal of work went into the staging and execution of the event. I can say that the drama was so spellbinding that nearly every kid was paying full attention.

Will it last?

We don’t know. But I would guess that all of those fire and rescue workers would say that if just one kid in the crowd says no to guzzling a beer and getting behind the wheel or refuses to ride with a driver who has been drinking, then the effort was well worth it.