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Every 15 Minutes Program in Orange County

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that teenage drinking and driving has decreased by 54% since 1991, but still 1 in 10 high school students drink and drive – proving that teenage drinking and driving remains a serious concern.

According to the CDC, drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are 17 times more likely to die in a crash if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% as compared to driving sober. With that in mind, here’s one way local schools are taking the matter into their own hands; it’s called Every 15 Minutes program, a nationwide program created by a police officer to do something about the teenage drunk driving epidemic in America.

The Every 15 Minutes program is a two-day program focusing on high school juniors and seniors, which challenges them to think about drinking, driving, personal safety, the responsibility of making mature decisions and the impact their decisions have on family, friends, their community, and many others,” according to the California Highway Patrol.

In the early 1990s, every 15 minutes in the United States someone died in an alcohol-related collision, which is how the program got its name. The Youth Center found out about the program and began implementing it at Los Alamitos High School. Today, the Youth Center collaborates with Los Alamitos H.S., the Los Alamitos Police Department, the Orange County Fire Authority, the Orange County Jail, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and numerous other agencies and businesses.

Every 15 Minutes is a Dramatic Reenactment

The philosophy of the program is that life’s lessons are best learned through “experience,” hence the program offers real-life experience without involving real-life risks. The emotionally-charged program challenges students to think about the emotional and financial impact of drinking and driving.

On the first day, one student is removed from class every 15 minutes; a police officer enters the classroom and reads an obituary written by the “dead” student’s parents. Meanwhile, uniformed officers make mock death notifications of the deceased children at their parents’ home, work, or business.

At lunch, a simulated car accident occurs on school grounds. Rescue workers arrive at the scene, treating injured participants, giving the students firsthand experience of being involved in an alcohol-related crash. The “experience” includes:

  • How fatalities are handled at the scene.
  • Students are extricated using Jaws of Life tools by fire fighters.
  • Paramedics, police officers and coroners arrive at the scene.
  • The student “drunk driver” is arrested and booked.
  • Student participants are taken to the hospital emergency room, morgue, and jail to be booked for “drunk driving.”
  • Students are transported to the County Courthouse to participate in a mock trial.
  • Students experience a holding cell (drunk tank).
  • Students select a casket for a loved one killed in a drunk driving crash.
  • The following day, a mock funeral is held at the high school.

Students at Rancho Santa Margarita Catholic High School have received Every 15 Minutes demonstration organized by Friends Against Drinking and Driving (FADD) and the Orange County Fire Authority. Hopefully, more Orange County schools will utilize this profound program to teach their students about the dangers of drinking and driving.

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