Sacramento Schools Try to Reduce Teen Drunk Driving

sac teen driving safety car

Drunk driving has been a problem for decades, leading to injuries and deaths on the road.

In the 1990s, a program called Every 15 Minutes was developed on the premise that a person was fatally injured in an alcohol-related collision approximately every 15 minutes. A powerful educational tool coordinated by the CHP and affiliated agencies, the program helps students to understand the dangers associated with drunk driving. Programs like this reduce injuries and fatalities through the power of information.

How Every 15 Minutes Teaches Teens Not to Drive Drunk

Over the course of two days, high school juniors and seniors are challenged in a very realistic way to face the consequences of drunk driving.

sacramento emts with gurney at staged drunk driving accident scene

Day One: Role Playing

One student is removed from the classroom every 15 minutes and remains off-campus, considered to be “dead”, for the duration of the day.

The following events are videotaped throughout the first day:

  • An officer and a counselor go into the classroom to read the obituary of the “deceased” student to those students remaining.
  • The parents of each student are given a simulated death notice and even though the parents know ahead of time, emotions are intense when hearing such news from a uniformed officer or chaplain.
  • Throughout the day, tomb stones are placed in a temporary cemetery on campus for students to actually see while they grieve for their “lost” peers.
  • A drunk driving collision is simulated using pre-selected students. It is staged on campus using damaged vehicles, fake blood, shattered glass, etc. in the presence of the student body. To show the full spectrum of what can actually happen, the fake crash includes students with minor injuries, students with critical injuries requiring the “Jaws of Life”, a student declared dead at the scene, and a teen driver who must go through a field sobriety test which reveals intoxication.
  • A 911 call is heard audibly to create the effect of an emergency response that would typically be heard by first responders. The police, fire department and paramedics actually dispatch to the scene of the staged collision.
  • The intoxicated student is booked and taken to jail, where she must call her parents to explain what happened. The critically injured students are transported to hospitals where doctors simulate attempts to save their lives. The student who died at the scene is actually transported in a body bag for students to see.
  • Doctors then deliver the news of either a death or grave injury to the parents who genuinely seem to  be emotionally affected.

sacramento fire department loading fake drunk driving accident victim into helicopterIt’s common for schools to select students with exceptional promise, such as the star athlete who is rendered paralyzed after the accident, or the valedictorian with a full ride scholarship who is arrested or deceased. This creates the powerful image of the consequences that can ensue, and all that can be lost within seconds from one night of drinking.

Day Two: Video Reinforcement

A video including all the events of day one is prepared for the students to watch.

Watch Video from a Sacramento High School

St. Francis High School is among many schools in Sacramento that have participated in the Every 15 Minutes teen driving safety program. You can watch the video below; keep in mind these were real students and parents who participated and the emotional impact is intense.

Does it Work to Prevent Drunk Driving?

This program leverages the opportunity to remind everyone involved that drunk driving is not an accident. Rather, it is the policy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to use the term “crash” rather than accident when referring to alcohol-related vehicle crashes because the term “accident” implies that these crashes and injuries are unavoidable. In fact, they are predictable and preventable.

Studies on education programs that have tracked students before and after Every 15 Minutes have shown that the program may have a favorable short-term effect on students’ stated attitudes. The statistics are difficult to scientifically quantify, but students note the emotional impact of having participated in the program.

Regardless of the data, a person who witnesses an alcohol related crash that is simulated to imitate the real thing–where peers and friends are killed or gravely injure–is likely to think twice before making a bad decision. Programs such as Every 15 Minutes can reduce alcohol-related injuries and fatalities in a powerful way. If you are interested in learning more, contact the CHP.

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