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Mock crash teaches terrible lesson

Demonstration for teens meant to drive home dangers of drunk driving

Posted: April 23, 2009 9:41 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2009 8:00 a.m.

Vasquez High School students react as emergency responders demonstrate the recreate the carnage of a fatal traffic accident as part of the Every 15 Minutes Progam on Thursday.

Vasquez High School became the scene of a realistic demonstration Thursday when the school hosted its "Every 15 Minutes" program to show students the consequences of drinking and driving.

Hundreds of Vasquez High School students, some clutching backpacks filled with school supplies, looked on as emergency responders spend the half-hour responding to what was presented as a deadly car crash.

As groups of students held each other and whispered, firefighters pulled classmates, cast for their roles in the demonstration, from the wrecked cars to place them in ambulances.

Other "crash victims" had white sheets pulled over them.

Three Vasquez High School students "died" while another student was presented as being paralyzed from the waist down in the stimulated crash.

The "drunk driver" was unharmed, but would be taken away by sheriff's deputies to go through the booking process.

Throughout Thursday's school day a student was pulled from class every 15 minutes to represent the one person in the United States who is injured or killed every 15 minutes in an alcohol-related incident.

The student's obituary, as written by his family, was read by Sheriff's Deputy Scott Short, the resident deputy in the Acton and Agua Dulce community.

"Everybody knows him. It's more realistic," Vasquez senior Kristina McClendon said.

By the end of day, 16 Vasquez students joined the group representing those taken by the grim reaper.

The "living dead" students, as they were called, took part in a retreat and spent the night at a hotel, unable to talk or see their friends and family. The experience gave the students the chance to meet with speakers from the activist group Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, who discussed drunk driving.

The students who took part in Every 15 Minutes volunteered with their parents to take part in the educational program, McClendon said. The students represent a range of high school groups as a way to show that anyone could be impacted by alcohol-related crashes, McClendon said.

The event continues today during an assembly at the Acton school where sophomores, juniors and seniors will watch a videotape highlighting Thursday's demonstration and listen to speakers discuss drunk driving.

Every 15 Minutes is meant to offer students an up-close look at what happens in alcohol-related collisions.

"It's a wake-up call," Scott said, about what the program does for participating students.

The hope is that with the school's upcoming prom on May 8 and June 17 graduation, students will think twice about drinking and driving, the organizers said.

This year's demonstration was organized by an Every 15 Minutes Committee of Vasquez High School seniors: Makaila Estrella, Jennifer Haldeman, Kristina McClendon and Devin Welch.

Estrella and Welch organized the event as their senior project, a requirement for every graduating Vasquez student.

The last time the school took part in the Every 15 Minutes program was 2005.


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