Drawing from his own personal experience, motivational speaker Tyler Presnell Monday afternoon offered a stark testimonial to Montezuma-Cortez High School students about the perils of driving recklessly.
Presnell, 27, was involved in a horrendous car crash when he was 14-years-old. The crash nearly killed the teen. He was a passenger in a car driven by an older teenager that was new to driving and driving recklessly before the crash. Presnell said he was not wearing a seat belt.
Cortez was Presnell’s 22nd stop in Colorado, as part of a tour that was in part sponsored by the Colorado Department of Transportation and AAA.
Speaking to the students, Presnell said he failed to tell the driver to slow down and decided not to wear a seat belt because neither would be considered cool.
Presnell showed students some pictures of his mangled body and the rehabilitation he underwent just to resume walking. After 22 operations, Presnell hit the road to tell students about the perils of driving recklessly just to be considered cool.
Presnell said he realizes most students consider traffic safety classes boring.
He said his accident involved the car smashing into a telephone pole at 70 mph. The horrendous wreck left him in a coma for months and afterwards, he was not able to walk for three years.
“Let’s get real with each other,” he said and wondered why people respect those who drive crazy because anyone is able to do that.
Several times during his presentation he bluntly asked students who were talking to leave if they didn’t want to listen to his message, adding that he did not want them to be there either if they had no interest in what he was saying.
He also asked the students how many of them wanted to be friends with older students and people. Before his accident Presnell always wanted to hang out with older people because that is what he thought was cool.
“You have got to be able to impress people,” he said. “Trying to impress people in a car is pathetic.”
He also said many young drivers drive fast just to try and impress someone, and often their car is their entire life.
He said students are often told about the reality of vehicle deaths during driver’s education courses but are not told the complete story of what happens to those victims who survive crashes. He said someone is injured in a car crash somewhere every fraction of a second.
He said so-called friends will oftentimes desert those who are either disabled or have their face mangled by broken glass in car crashes.
“You will not have friends when people see your face,” he said.
Presnell mentioned a teen he met whose face was scarred by shattered glass from a car accident. Presnell did not try to sugar coat what the teen’s life was going to be like. The day the teenager was released from the hospital, his girlfriend ended their relationship and told him she never wanted to see him again.
Presnell also said the worst sound of a high-speed crash is the silence immediately afterwards that signals fatalities or people close to death.
He said to this day the memories of his 1989 crash in Washington State are still vivid.
Part of Presnell’s injuries from the crash were brain related, and he no longer has any inhibitions, whether that means speaking whatever is in on his mind or reacting to something without rationalizing his actions.
The subsequent results of his near-death crash remain with Presnell.
He also said his short-term memory has been affected and some of his internal organs are artificial or came from transplants from other people. Although he’s able to walk again, he said that he has no feeling in one foot.
“If I die that’s OK,” he said, explaining he believes the injuries he suffered will lead to a premature death.
He also said that in today’s world everyone thinks they are more important than anyone else and only sees 10 percent of his or her surroundings.
He also said that there is no reason why each student at M-CHS should not know a little about each and every student at their school.
“I want the soldiers, motivated people to be around me,” he said.
The motivational speaker also said he considers himself to be a poet, and throughout his speech he shared a number of poems.
He cautioned students about life getting harder after graduation and called the students who have persevered through hardships “soldiers”.
He displayed his scars in an attempt to stress what could happen to people who make bad decisions.
“This is my real life. The last 14 months of my life is the longest I have gone without an operation since (the crash),” he said.
He is scheduled to have yet another surgery in June.
“I am trying to give people hope,” he said.
Michael Maresh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org