Foothill Technology High School

Opinion: Every 15 Minutes sobers students to realities of drunk driving

Opinion writer CJ Haberbush writes that even if only one life is saved from the Every 15 Minutes simulation, it will have been worth the effort. Credit: Jessie Snyder/The Foothill Dragon Press


Every 15 Minutes is an event that is supposed to occur every two years at Foothill Technology High School. The purpose of the event is to warn students of the dangers of drunk and distracted driving through impactful video clips and realistic accident simulations.

Students volunteer to participate in the event, and are directed to act as those killed in car accidents. One student acts as the drunk driver, and three others act as the victims of the car crash simulation.

Every 15 Minutes is a two-day event intended to teach students a powerful lesson. On the first day, names are announced over the intercom of the volunteer students who “died” due to distracted driving.

About halfway through the day, juniors and seniors are ushered to the front of the school to witness the crash simulation. Paramedics, firefighters and police officers arrive in response to the “fatal” accident. During the simulation, freshman and sophomores remain in their classes to view a video on the dangers of distracted driving.

The second day of the event was the funeral for the students who “died” the previous day. They spent the night at school and were instructed not to have contact with anyone. The students do not use their phones, and were instructed to speak to no one in order to add to the realism of the event. It is supposed to be as if they have died, and being cut off from their guardians and friends increases the emotional weight that the event carries.

Every 15 Minutes is meant to be a serious and impactful event, yet on the first day, some students seemingly did not take it with much gravity. Throughout the simulated accident, some students repeatedly laughed and joked about what was happening, and acted overall inappropriately.

Part of this may be due to the fact that many students could not see what was happening throughout the simulation and therefore it carried less weight, or possibly that levity was used as a coping mechanism in order to alleviate the heavy emotional toll of the day. However, that is no excuse for disrespectfulness. It was disappointing that not everyone took the simulation seriously, even if it was a minority of the students.

Thankfully, the majority of the students did take the event seriously, recognizing the importance for awareness of drunk and distracted driving.

If anyone was apathetic on the first day, the funeral on day two seemed to truly drive the point home. As friends and family members delivered eulogies for their “deceased” loved ones, the mood was completely somber. In sharp contrast to the previous days proceedings few people spoke, and those that had comments did so quietly and respectfully.

California Highway Patrol officer Tony Pedeferri and Erin Prewitt (wife of the late Chris Prewitt) delivered their testimonies of how they were forever changed by intoxicated drivers. This truly hit close to home. It no longer just felt real, it was real.

While it may seem like the amount of effort required to make Every 15 Minutes a reality is not worth the impact, it is by far the most effective and realistic way of informing students. Watching someone who you know “die” is heart wrenching enough. Imagining the prospect of truly losing a loved one is enough to cause most students to come to the sobering realization that it is not worth the risk to drink and drive?

As humans, we typically weigh our decisions on an analysis of risk versus reward. If the reward is greater than the risk, we will decide to take on that risk. The realistic qualities of Every 15 Minutes are incredibly effective for teaching students that drunk and distracted driving is simply not worth the risk.

Every 15 Minutes does an excellent job of highlighting the fact that drunk and distracted is a huge gamble, and the consequences are simply not worth taking the risk.

It is true that the majority of the time drunk or distracted driving will not result in an accident, however, it only takes one time to change your life forever. The event shows that not only the life of someone who chooses to drive drunk could be affected, but others can be killed, or harmed physically and emotionally. It causes the student to imagine losing the person most important to them, and that is not an easy thing to do.

Every 15 Minutes allows students to see the reality of drunk driving, and to witness what can happen as a result of a singular poor decision. It is emotionally powerful, and necessary to teach students an important lesson.

Even if Every 15 Minutes saves only just one student from involvement in a drug or alcohol related accident, isn’t that worth the effort?

— CJ Haberbush