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'Every 15 Minutes' is working
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Police, firefighters, school officials, community volunteers and emergency medical responders recently conducted the "Every 15 Minutes" program at Central Valley High School in Ceres. The idea is to prevent the needless loss of young peoples' lives owing to driving after consuming alcohol or other intoxicants. Through this program, teens are exposed to the simulated realities of what happens as a result of traffic collisions that kill and maim drivers, their passengers and innocent motorists.

"Every 15 Minutes" got its name from the grim statistic that every 15 minutes, somewhere in the United States, someone dies as a result of a DUI-related collision. Interestingly, the 15-minutes part no longer applies - it is now actually every 24 minutes. I suspect that the education efforts are paying off and that, coupled with improved vehicle safety features, are combining to decrease the frequency of these deaths.

The timing of conducting the Every 15 Minutes Program is not at all random. The early spring is chosen because it traditionally marks the time when high school proms and senior trips become more common. This, coupled with more daylight hours and better weather, sets the stage for more outings, travels and parties. Graduation is also only weeks away, which prompts many kids to take risks that they would otherwise avoid.

It is important to understand that a drunk driver need not be obviously intoxicated to the point of falling down, being unsteady on their feet or otherwise affected to be a danger to themselves and others. It is not an issue of being "drunk" per se. Even the slightest amount of impairment is cause for alarm. It only takes one or two alcoholic beverages to slow a person's reaction time such that it affects their ability to make good split-second decisions and to react immediately and correctly to avoid collisions or other hazards.

The Every 15 minutes program utilizes the creation of a staged, yet very realistic collision, in which teens are made up to appear seriously injured in gory in detail, some are shown to be dead or severely injured and others play the role of the intoxicated teen responsible for causing the collision. Emergency crews, including a helicopter, respond to the scene and carry out functions as though the event were totally real.

In the collision aftermath, the teens are separated from their families, loved ones and friends for 24 hours to illustrate the void that is left in their absence. The impact of this, even though it is simulated, has profound effects on all involved, and the message of "do not drink and drive" has a longer-lasting impact on everyone who participates or views the program. In this recent Every 15 Minutes program, some 800 teens were exposed to the events and message. They, in turn, are likely to speak with other kids about the horrors of DUI-related collisions.

Even though this program is aimed at teens, the message and impact of it is not lost on the adults who participate or who comprise the audience. Regardless of who has the opportunity to be exposed to an Every 15 Minutes program, the message is very clear: The consequences of DUI driving are deadly, they have life-long heartache attached to them and most importantly, all of these can be avoided - it is simply a matter of making the choice to do the right thing. Do not drink (or use other intoxicants) and then get behind the wheel of a car. Furthermore, do not get into a car with an intoxicated driver and do whatever is necessary to stop intoxicated persons from driving a car.