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Driving home a message

"Every 15 Minutes" program simulates DUI crash scene

Posted: March 27, 2009 1:14 a.m.
Updated: March 27, 2009 8:00 a.m.

Fire department personnel work to disassemble one of the vehicles involved in the simulated crash. The "Every 15 Minutes" program is a two-day event designed to make the consequences of drunk driving clear to high school students.

The bodies of several teenagers lay lifeless in the mangled wreck of a two-vehicle collision near a local high school. But on this day, it was only a drill.

Twice a year, local law enforcement officers and educators come together to participate in the "Every 15 Minutes" program - a two-day event designed to make the consequences of drunk driving clear to high school students.

Early Thursday at West Ranch High School, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel orchestrated a realistic simulation of what happens immediately after a fatal car crash.

The staged crash scene incorporated four students of West Ranch High School as actors in the ensuing drama. Two of the teens were announced as fatalities in the simulated crash.

Treating the accident using routine procedures, local sheriff's deputies, fire department personnel and CHP officers responded at the scene and began the work of identifying survivors, performing field sobriety tests and cutting apart the mangled vehicles.

Juniors and seniors of West Ranch High School were ushered from their classrooms to the scene of the "accident" at the end of Valencia Boulevard only feet from the school.

As emergency medical technicians and deputy coroners attended to the "injured" and "dead," students listened to a step-by-step commentary from a CHP officer who described the gritty process of dealing with a fatal traffic collision.

Moments later, it was announced that the student who had been "driving" one of the vehicles had failed sobriety tests at the scene and was being taken into custody. The simulated death of his classmates would be cause for felony charges, the CHP officer said.

Few students spoke to their classmates over the whine of the hydraulic vehicle saw and ambulance sirens.

Teachers and staff at West Ranch hoped the program would leave a lasting impression about the life-and-death consequences of drunk driving, according to Assistant Principal Donna Manfredi.

In previous years, the "Every 15 Minutes" program has included mock criminal proceedings against the students participating as simulated drunk drivers and the staged absences of the "victims" in the classroom and at home.

Events will continue today with a memorial service and school assembly at West Ranch.


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