“Every 15 Minutes” was conceived in Canada as a “scared straight” type program aimed at reducing drinking and driving by high school students. The program migrated to the states and it was first implemented by the Chico, California police department in 1995. The name derives from early 1990’s statistics indicating that one person died every 15 minutes in an alcohol-related accident. Implementation of public awareness campaigns and stiffer penalties for driving while impaired have halved that statistic to one every 30 minutes, but the number of young people being killed in such accidents is still way too high. In addition, technology has advanced so much since the program was developed, that the focus has expanded to all types of distracted driving such as drowsy driving, driving while on a cell phone, and texting or e-mailing while driving.
Here is how the official website, www.every15minutes.com, describes the program:
The Every 15 Minutes Program offers real-life experience without the real-life risks. This emotionally charged program, entitled Every 15 Minutes, is an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol and texting while driving. This powerful program will challenge students to think about drinking, texting while driving, personal safety, and the responsibility of making mature decisions when lives are involved.
Implementing the program in a particular high school requires the participation of a number of local agencies and requires a lot of planning. Typically, school and law enforcement agencies are joined by local hospitals, liquor regulators, emergency responders, public health agencies, funeral homes, as well as service organizations and businesses interested in the health and welfare of their communities. Once those who are going to participate are brought together, the actual participants in the role playing are selected, including the students who will be “injured” or “killed.”
Day one of the two-day program begins with the “Grim Reaper” pulling one student from class. Every 15 minutes after the first is removed, another student is taken from class and not allowed to return until a police officer has read an “obituary” to the class written by the student’s parent(s). After that, the student will return to the class with white face makeup and a toe tag, the “living dead.” Meanwhile, uniformed law enforcement officers will deliver death notifications to the parents of each “dead” student at their home or office.
At some point during the day, a car crash is staged on school grounds involving one or more students, and at least one of them is killed. The entire student body witnesses the crash and the response from the agencies involved. The idea is for everyone to see the impact on the students directly involved, as well as the community as a whole. The coroner deals with fatalities while emergency responders extricate and tend to the injured. Law enforcement arrests the alleged drunk driver and books him or her. The entire process hits home with visits to an emergency room, morgue and jail to see how the processes play out.
The second day starts with a school assembly during which the students who played a role in the simulated deaths participate in an audio-visualization of their deaths. Each shares a letter to their parent(s) which begins with:
"Dear Mom and Dad, every fifteen minutes someone in the United States dies from an alcohol-related traffic collision, and today I died. I never had the chance to tell you……."
Parents then share letters written to their now “dead” children. The entire process is time-consuming and requires the investment of many community stakeholders, but the benefit far outweighs the time, energy and resource commitment required to implement the program.
For more information on how to stage an “Every 15 Minutes” program at your school, visit the website at www.every15minutes.com, or call the national headquarters at 484.898.0390 or 610.814.6418. You can also check in with the coordinators who have staged the following programs to date in 2011:
- March 3 – 4, 2011 Valley View High School, Moreno Valley, CA
- March 15 – 16, 2011 Kempsville High School, Virginia Beach, VA
- March 16 – 17, 2011 Royal High School, Simi Valley, CA
- March 17 – 18, 2011 Colonel Zadok Magruder High School, Rockville, MD
- March 24 – 25, 2011 Mojave High School, Las Vegas, NV
- March 24 – 25, 2011 Hart High School, Santa Clarita, CA
- March 29 – 30, 2011 Northgate High School, Walnut Creek, CA
- March 29 – 30, 2011 Roxbury High School, Succasunna, NJ
- March 29 – 30, 2011 Canyon High School, Anaheim, CA
- March 30 – 31, 2011 Rockville High School, Rockville, MD
- March 31 – 1, 2011 Pacific Grove High School, Pacific Grove, California
- March 31 – 1, 2011 Centennial High School, Blaine, MN
- April 11 – 14, 2011 San Jon Municipal Schools, San Jon, NM
- April 13 – 14, 2011 Clay Center Community High School, Clay Center , KS
- April 13 – 14, 2011 Tillamook High School, Tillamook, OR
- April 13 – 14, 2011 Alexander High School, Douglasville, GA
- April 14 – 15, 2011 Vasquez High School, Acton, CA
- April 14 – 15, 2011 Boulder City, Boulder City, NV
- April 20 – 21, 2011 Norwalk High School, Norwalk, ca
- April 20 – 21, 2011 Coleman High School, Coleman, WI
- April 20 – 21, 2011 Brighton High School, Brighton , CO
- April 20 – 21, 2011 Los Alamitos High School, Los Alamitos, CA
- April 25 – 26, 2011 Hockinson High School, Brush Prairie, WA
- April 27 – 28, 2011 Moorhead High School, Moorhead, MN
- April 27 – 28, 2011 El Rancho High School, Pico Rivera, CA
- April 27 – 28, 2011 Ocean Lakes High School, Virginia Beach, VA
- April 27 – 28, 2011 Centennial High School, Gresham, OR
- April 27 – 28, 2011 Kewaunee High School, Kewaunee, WI
- April 28 – 29, 2011 Fox Chapel Area High School, Pittsburgh, PA
- April 28 – 29, 2011 Sedona Red Rock High School, Sedona, AZ
Your time spent on staging an “Every 15 Minutes” program at your local high school will be well worth the investment and then some.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.