Recently, Churchill High School participated in the “Every 15 Minutes” national campaign against driving while impaired. Students at the high school made a video depicting the horrors of wrecks that happen while a driver is intoxicated or texting, using special effects makeup and a grim reaper character.
The organization holds events at different high schools to educate students about their cause and bring the seriousness of the situation to light. During the events, the grim reaper takes random students from class to represent the tragedies that happen due to collisions involving impairment, which was statistically once every 15 minutes when the organization was founded in the 1990s. After the students lives have been ‘claimed,’ the rest of the school views a realistic vehicle crash scene with students wearing special effects makeup to display the grisly nature of collisions.
The students that participated in daytime activities also go to a hotel (or Camp Harlow, in the case of Eugene) for the night, which illustrates the separation from family and friends that car wrecks cause. Students write a letter to their parents about their death after they have been taken through a visualization of dying because of a collision with a drunk driver. The students also get to use fatal vision goggles that simulate being drunk and show the dangers of not being in control when behind the wheel. In the end, students recognize the powerful effects that driving intoxicated or distracted has on others.
In Eugene, the Lane County Police Department and fire department are involved in the “Every 15 Minutes” events, including the one at Churchill High School, where police officers, firefighters, and paramedics were at the scene of the simulated crash. A student played the intoxicated driver, and several others played victims of the wreck, while some stood by dressed as grim reapers playing the living dead. The rest of their classmates watched the aftermath. Those playing injured victims were taken away on stretchers after being pried out of the vehicles by firefighters.
Simultaneously, the drunk driver walked out of his car and saw the wreck that he had caused, and then was given a field sobriety test by police officers. The victims were depicted with gruesome injuries and fatalities, some being declared dead at the scene in front of their classmates and friends.
The police department and fire department have seen the benefits of this non-traditional method of education, including South resource officer, Ryan Wolgamott.
“Some would call it fear-based education, but I think it’s important to see how much damage can be done in a crash, considering most high school students have never been in one,” Wolgamott said.
The program has also incorporated texting while driving.
“It’s a pretty neat experience. Churchill did it last May, and it was timed that way to be before Prom,” Wolgamott said. “I think that if we can save one life, or make one person think before getting behind the wheel, then it’s a win.”
Currently, there are plans for “Every 15 Minutes” to come to South next spring, since it has already been to North, Churchill, Thurston, Elmira, Lowell, and the other surrounding schools.