WESTERLY — Teachers, coaches and police are all asking the town's teen drivers to operate their vehicles safely after a recent report of erratic driving by young drivers stirred fears of potential accidents.
Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said Friday that police received a call on Tuesday describing vehicles driven by young adults that appeared to be racing or chasing each other. The caller told police one of the vehicles appeared to be traveling in excess of 100 mph.
Police were able to determine the identity of the drivers and they were told to refrain from driving erratically. Lacey said police also determined that the incident was related to a non-school-sanctioned game called "Assassin." Participants in the game "shoot" each other with water guns. The person who remains unshot at the end of the game is the winner and receives a pot of money from entry fees submitted by the players. The game is an annual event, Lacey said, and is played throughout the country by high school and college students.
The erratic driving prompted the police department's youth officer, Anthony Alicchio, to ask the school's administrators to communicate with families and students to warn them and ask them to drive safely.
Kevin Cronin, Westerly High School assistant principal, said the erratic-driving incident appeared to have occurred shortly after dismissal.
Part of an email message to families and students from the school administration said, "We have been encouraged by the Westerly Police to alert parents that this non-school sanctioned event is creating a public safety hazard that will not be tolerated. Please have a conversation with your student to ensure that they are not engaging in dangerous driving behavior. In addition, this non-sanctioned activity will not be tolerated on school grounds. The WHS administrative team will be addressing this concern with students as well. We hope that we can work together as a community to help keep our students safe. Your active cooperation will help us achieve that goal."
Cronin said school officials are not certain whether the erratic driving is tied to the Assassin game.
"That's a non-school-sanctioned activity that we don't have anything to do with, but anytime our kids are partaking in something that is dangerous or not safe, we want to make sure that they are as safe as they can be," he said. "We know kids are kids and want to have fun, but at the same time we want to be sure they are safe."
The high school's athletic director, James Vetelino, sent an email to the school's coaches asking them to re-enforce the message of safety with their players.
Cronin said the overall response to the report of erratic driving speaks volumes about the town.
"It's a testament to the school's strong relationship with the police department, and really, with the broader school community. We all want to keep our kids safe," Cronin said.