OC students hear dramatic drinking-driving message

OIL CITY – More than six hundred lives were impacted Wednesday at a driving under the influence assembly at Oil City High School.

The assembly was part of an ongoing effort to make students in the district aware of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Vernon Hilyer of Clarion, whose son, Brandon, was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2008, gave the presentation.

The assembly was made possible by the Venango County Substance Abuse program and the Franklin juvenile probation organization.

“We didn’t just have this event because prom is this weekend,” said Scott Stahl, co-principal of Oil City High School. “It’s my job to give them as much information as I can, it’s their [the students] job to make the right decisions.”

“I share a true life story about my son’s fight with alcohol and the effects his choices had on everyone who knew and loved him,” Hilyer said during the presentation. “My son Brandon was an outstanding all-American who was full of life, but alcohol impaired his control and eventually robbed him of life. Now I serve a life sentence due to his drinking and driving. My life sentence is not one behind bars, but a life full of sadness and emptiness.”

On the night of his death, Brandon was driving with a .253 blood alcohol level when he crashed his vehicle. He died from a broken neck the next morning.

The accident occurred just nine days before Brandon would have turned 22.

Sadly, accidents like the one that ended Brandon’s life are becoming more frequent. In Americans 16 to 24, the top killer is vehicle crashes where drugs or alcohol are a factor.

Oil City High School had a similar program at the beginning of the school year.

“We had speakers, the DUI task force, a simulator and the students had the opportunity to wear beer goggles” Stahl said.

Stahl has been to more than 20 viewings for students in his 24 years as an educator.

“Some were out of their control, but some were a result of decisions that the student had made. I don’t want to go to any more, that’s why we have events like this” Stahl said, clearly upset.

Hilyer started speaking to audiences the spring following his son’s Sept. 10, 2008, death.

He has given presentations at all of the area high schools, to youth correction homes and state correction institutions.

“If my message reaches one kid, or saves one life, then I have accomplished my goal” Hilyer said.

With a busy schedule he will easily accomplish that goal. He plans to continue spreading his message.

Ending the program, Hilyer urged the students in attendance, “Please don’t drink, and definitely don’t drink and drive.”