By: Morgan Cole
I’m staunchly against drinking and driving. The thought of someone getting hurt or killed because of my irresponsible actions is terrifying. But not everyone thinks this way–people continue to drink and drive every day.
According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 29% of the total vehicle traffic fatalities in 2018 were attributed to alcohol-impaired driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2018, over 10,000 people were killed in an accident involving a driver with an illegal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).
Statistics show that underage drunk driving fatalities represent about 9% of the fatalities in the U.S. In my home state California, the highschools had to go through an alcohol prevention program called Every 15 Minutes. According to its website, the Every 15 Minutes program is “…a first-generation model of school-based alcohol prevention that incorporates simulated alcohol-related consequences with various community elements.” The program is named after the statistic that every 15 minutes, someone dies from an alcohol-related collision.
This program changed my life. Although it was only two days long, the program pushed my emotions and fears to places I’ve never thought possible. Essentially, students are chosen and asked to be involved in a simulated drunk driving accident. One student is picked as the drunk driver in this simulation, and the student is taken to a real jail after the accident. The other students involved in the accident are either killed or seriously injured, and taken to a real hospital to be treated.
Some of the students are pronounced dead at the hospital, and their parents then come to the hospital to say goodbye to their child. All students involved in the simulated accident are taken out of school for the duration of the program, and their phones are confiscated so that they can’t contact any family or friends.
On the first day of the program, a man dressed up as the Grim Reaper and walked around campus and took different students out of their classrooms. He then placed a rose on the student’s desk, and it is then understood that specific student is “dead” and you won’t see them for the rest of the week.
At the end of the week, the program holds an assembly. They play a video where your classmate is pronounced dead in the hospital and their mom crying while she holds her child for the last time. You watch the student who is the drunk driver be taken to jail. They cry when they realize that because of their actions alone, their friends are dead and they will spend the rest of their life in prison.
It’s difficult to understand why this program is so emotional. Because yes–it is fake. Yes, we know that the accident isn’t real. We know that the girl in our English class isn’t really dead.
We know that her parents will see and hold their child again. But what if it was real? What if the girl that sat next to you in class was killed in a drunk driving accident? It’s a terrifying thought to have; this is why they hold this program.
The people who run this program aren’t ignorant. They know that teenagers are going to drink no matter what. The point of this program is not to tell kids that they shouldn’t drink, but rather to show them how their actions affect others.
One of my teachers spoke at the assembly on the last day of the program. Her words at this assembly are the reason that I will never drive under the influence. She started by saying that she would rather get a call from a drunk kid at 3 a.m. asking her to pick them up than to ever have them get behind the wheel drunk, and then she told a personal story. She told us that her brother was killed in a car accident at the hands of a drunk driver. She recounted the day of his funeral, and I will never forget what she said.
“When we were little, my brother was scared of the dark and I always made fun of him for it. And as I watched them lower my brother’s body into the ground, I couldn’t help but think about how dark it must be in there and how I wish someone could just turn on the light,” she said.
I knew that I would never drive under the influence after hearing this story, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that others continue to drive drunk every day–even people I’m close to. It’s difficult to have to look someone I love in the eyes and beg them to call an Uber home instead of driving. I often tell them that even if they don’t care about their own life, they need to care about the lives of others.
I ask them a simple question: Do you want to be the reason that a parent has to attend their child’s funeral?
I urge you to think about that question the next time you consider driving after a night of drinking. Nowadays, there are so many other ways to get home that don’t involve driving under the influence. This article outlines 10 free alternative rides home for when you’re impaired by alcohol. Also, you’d be surprised how many of your friends or family members would be willing to pick you up at any time of night.
This is a conversation that needs to be had, even if you don’t want to argue with your loved ones. Because at the end of the day, you’d rather argue with a friend to ensure that they get home safely instead of getting a call in the middle of the night that they were in an accident.
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