As a part of my involvement with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), I attended the Every 15 Minutes event at Livermore High School. This was a powerful event that managed to keep 0ver 2500 teenagers absolutely silent for over an hour.

Every 15 Minutes Grim ReaperEvery 15 Minutes is a program designed to educate students on the real affects and possible consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When the program first started it was named Every 15 Minutes because at that time one person was killed by a drunk driver on average every 15 minutes in the United States.  Since then the numbers have decreased, but there are still over 10,000 people killed each year in alcohol or drug related crashes.

The program took place over two days and involved the students and their parents.  Students were required have parental permission to attend and participate in the program.  When the students arrived at the school in the morning, a trailer containing a car that was involved in a drunk driving crash was on display at the school.  On the side of the trailer was written the story of the victim who was killed in the car.

Every 15 minutes, the grim reaper entered a classroom and selected a student.  The student was taken out of the class, put on a black t-shirt and white face paint and had his/her name announced over the public address system as being killed by a drunk driver.  Those “living dead” students then returned to class and were not allowed to speak to other students for the remainder of the day.

Late morning of the first day, the students were all taken to the football stadium where a drunk driving crash was reenacted with student Every 15 Minutes Covered Carsparticipants.  The student crash participants started the morning (before the assembly) by simulating a party where lots of drinking was involved.  The cars were on the field and covered by tarps when the rest of the students arrive.  The video of the party was shown at the start of assembly to set the stage.  As the party winds down the students head to their cars to go to the prom.

When the video ended there was the sound of screeching tires and a crash.  The tarps were then removed from the cars revealing the crumpled wreck and the pre-positioned students, some of whom had been thrown from the cars.  A simulated 911 call was made by a passerby and the long wait for the emergency vehicles began (just as in real life).

During the wait, the drunk driver (in this case a young woman) who only had minor injuries went through the agony of waiting while people she cares about suffered (and in some cases died) and realizing the magnitude of what had happened.  The real emergency crews arrived and did their part with narration by a retired police officer.

Every 15 Minutes Crash siteThe police were the first to arrive and they called the fire/rescue vehicles.  After another wait, the fire crews started to arrive and a incident command was set up.  The emergency personnel assessed the injuries and began the process of disassembling the vehicles to get to the victims.  Ambulances were called along with a life-flight helicopter which was needed to transport one critically injured victim.

The narrator pointed out how the victims who were “dead” at the scene were ignored or moved out of the way while the living were attended to.  Throughout the entire drama, the drunk driver lamented what had happened and tried to explain to anyone who would listen the she only drove because her boyfriend (who died at the scene) was too drunk to drive and she only had two beers.

Finally, after about 45 minutes, the victims were all removed from the vehicles, the injured were loaded into the ambulances and the Every 15 Minutes Life Flight coming inhelicopter.  As the injured were taken away and the hearse arrived, the drunk driver, who was 18 years old,  was given a breathalyzer test and found to be at .09 which is over the adult legal limit (the underage legal limit is zero).

The drunk driver was handcuffed and taken away while the bodies of the “dead” were loaded into the hearse and driven away.

During the assembly, police officers visited the parents of the victims to notify them that their child had been involved in the accident.  Those whose child was killed were told that just as if it had happened.  Even though the parents knew it was not real, they all experienced the emotions just as though it were true.

In the evening after the assembly, there were separate retreats for the students and their parents.  In addition to educational presentations, the students wrote letters to their parents saying what they would want to say if they had been killed in a drunk driving crash.  The parents heard from a parent who had actually had a child killed by a drunk driver and also wrote obituaries just as if their child had been killed.

The next morning, there was another assembly in the auditorium.  The letters and obituaries were displayed and the video of the previous day’s activities was shown.  Some of the letters and obituaries were read by the students and parents and another video made by the Highway Patrol was shown.  The second video was the parents of a child killed by a drunk driver talking about what they would say to their son if they could talk to him.

The entire program was very emotional and there was barely a dry eye in the house at the end.  This is a very powerful program that seems to have a positive impact.  It should be in every high school in the country.  I have spoken to many young adults who speak to how much it affected them and their thinking and attitude towards drunk driving.

What do you think?  If you have experienced the Every 15 Minutes program, what do you think of it?  If not, do you think something like this should be implemented at your local high school?  Please leave a comment below.

Jim was born in Oakland and with the exception of his 7 years in the Air Force, has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area his entire life. He is an avid fan of San Francisco and its surrounds and enjoys the beauty, culture and diversity it affords. He enjoys being able to take day trips to the ocean, the desert or to some of the highest peaks on the continent. He likes having the ability to travel from a metropolis with millions of people to a quiet spot with only nature around him within a few hours of driving time.