Every 15 Minutes challenges students to think of the effect of drunk driving on communities


Courtesy of Phillipa May

SCHS students participate in the program as the "living dead."

Corrections: 5/6/19 at 10:01 am. Graf three, line two: eliminate “the school”

The scene starts with a teenage driver calling 911. Her friend is lying unresponsive in the car next to her. Across from her the other driver rocks back and forth. Her car is upside down, the passenger, bloodied and battered, lies several feet away. From the distance sirens sound. Emergency workers respond to the scene. In the end, one student is taken away in handcuffs, another in an ambulance, the last in a body bag.

This reenactment was part of the program Every 15 Minutes. And while this was fake, according to Police Chief Michael Sellers, similar scenes happen far too often in real life.

On Thursday, May 2 and Friday, May 3, SCHS participated in the Every 15 Minutes, program where students received a sobering wake up call to the dangers of drinking and driving.

According to the Santa Clara County Government website, Every 15 Minutes is a two-day program for high school students aimed at provoking discussions about drinking, driving and decision making. The program was named after the statistic from the 1990s where every 15 minutes someone died in a alcohol-related traffic collision. The current statistic is every 30 minutes.

The program began Thursday with police officers visiting some SCHS classes during first period and notifying students that a classmate was killed in a alcohol-related traffic accident. During second period, a simulated traffic collision was shown on the football field with first responders reacting to the scene as if it was real. Friday involved a mock memorial service for the “Living Dead,” the students who were “killed” in the simulation the day before.

Sophomore Daniel Kingsbury thought the reenactment was very convincing.

“It was definitely a really emotional event,” Kingsbury said. “It felt very real.”

Junior Daniella Dayen participated in the program as a member of the “Living Dead.” On Friday, she attended a retreat where she and the other “Living Dead” heard from speakers with firsthand experience of the effects of drunk driving. She believes that Every 15 Minutes impacts not only the participants but the school as a whole.

“It really opens the students’ eyes to realize that this is real and common,” Dayen said. “It can easily happen to anyone, all because of someone’s selfish choice.”

Sellers agrees. He believes the program gives students the ability to reflect on the decisions they make and the impact their choices have on the world around them.

“If we convince just one person not to drive under the influence it’s all worth it,” Sellers said.  

SCUSD superintendent Stanley Rose believes that the lasting impact of the program is from individuals’ ability to make connections to experiences in their personal lives.

“A few years ago when I was superintendent in another district, one of my teachers’ sons was killed by a drunk driver, and it was right before his high school graduation. She retired as a teacher, but her life was altered forever,” Rose said. “Although this is a reenactment, it is all too real. None of us want to outlive our children.”

Principal Gregory Shelby expressed a similar opinion. He believes that the Every 15 Minutes program is particularly effective because of the emotions it evokes.

“It’s one of the most impactful things we do in terms of touching kids and having them understand the consequences of drinking and driving on a more emotional level,” Shelby said. “It is one thing to talk about it. It is another thing to actually feel the pain of loss.”

Courtesy of Phillipa May
Senior Fiona Paul poses as the drunk driver who caused the crash.