By Jackson Ponder, Staff Writer
El Camino was the only school in the Sacramento area to participate in an event called “Every 15 Minutes” this year. The “Every 15 Minutes” program is a preventative drunk driving program based on the previous statistic that every 15 minutes someone in the U.S. dies in an alcohol related traffic collision. EC participates in this program biennially, a mock accident between two cars is staged in the parking lot, this year it was in the lot of the new Performing Arts Center on Eastern Avenue.
The program started off simulating someone dying by playing a fading heartbeat over the intercom every 15 minutes. A highway patrol officer, a few chaplins, the grim reaper, would escort students out of the classroom and into the small gym. After all the students “died”, they were taken to a hotel to stay the night away from their families and friends without their electronics.
This demonstration was timed perfectly on Wednesday April 24, right before Junior Prom and Senior Ball.
Some members that participate from the community were chaplins. Chaplain Wayne Pleis said he became a chaplain because after 42 years of teaching, he was met by chaplains that came into his classroom after two students at a school he taught at died of hepatitis. “It is extremely important for students to know the difference between life and death. What this demonstration highlights is that it can change so fast from making poor decisions such as drinking and driving,”
Captain Chris Vestal from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department mentioned that there can be many more causes to fatal accidents, such as the music in the car being too loud or children yelling in the car. Captain Vestal also mentioned that they respond to a vehicle accident like the mock crash presented at EC a few times a day. He made a point that seat belts can help in a situation like the mock crash.
During this mock crash five students were involved in the demonstration. Two students played by Jolie Crockett (‘19) and Blake Moser (‘19) were in the white Lexus, and were just coming back to EC after studying at a restaurant.
Sara Abegglen (‘19) and Sam Nicholas (‘19) were in a gold jeep on their way back to EC to pick up a friend’s car after they had been drinking at a nearby park. Nicholas’ car collided with Moser’s car on Eastern Ave. One bystander, Bailey Dennis (‘20), was at the party, but was not drinking followed them to EC and witnessed the crash. She was the one to dial 911.
The first responder on the scene was the Fire Chief. He assessed the situation, and called for backup including a special operations truck as well as a ladder truck and two ambulances.
After medical personnel arrived, California Highway Patrol Officers arrived to investigate the cause of the crash. While fire and rescue crew were prying off doors and roofs of the smashed vehicles, CHP officers ran a field sobriety test on Nicholas, the driver of the gold Jeep. This concluded that his blood alcohol level was 0.16, twice the legal limit for an adult over 21 and illegal for a minor, their limit is 0.00.
In the end, both Crockett and Moser died, Abegglen was airlifted to the hospital after a helicopter landed on the EC soccer field, and the driver, Nicholas, is booked into jail for DUI.
The next day at the assembly all of the students who “died” sat in chairs with their parents on the gym floor. Some were called up to present a letter to their parents of what they would’ve said if they could say one last thing before they died. The students and parents who read letters were Daniel Dahlberg (‘19) and his mother, mother of Bryanna Planas (‘20), and last was Courtney Cavender (‘19).
The overall cause of the ‘crash’ was a drunk driver which occurs much too often. Officer Carlisle from the CHP office said that he thinks that this mock crash shown in front of students, “helps reality set,” in showing consequences to actions such as drinking and driving.
From the look of students faces during the mock accident and the need for emotional support animals to come to EC a day after this program, many think this will help prevent more situations like this.
Officer Carlisle also made clear that drunk driving isn’t the only cause of crashes in younger people. “Age 16 to 25 have a heightened risk for getting in accidents just because they are newer to driving, or are showing off in front of their friends.”
Although no one can be sure if this program stops all who watched it from drinking while driving, the evidence presented that now it is around every one hour that someone is killed by a drunk driving accident.