By Michelle Blinder
Drunk driving is a critical issue in the Santa Clarita Valley, causing an abundance of fatalities annually; luckily, there is a program called ‘Every 15 Minutes’ to create awareness among everyone, but especially teenagers.
I was sitting in class my sophomore year of high school — a new student — as the loudspeaker came on. Everyone fell silent and listened to the uneasy voice over say, “Senior Christian Brouws has been killed in a drunk driving collision three minutes ago.”
This was my first year at Valencia High, and I knew nothing of the every fifteen minutes program; I merely heard whispers about it from other students on campus. I was clueless.
Blue and red lights flashes all over campus, while the matching sirens blasted their sound. I learned more as the day goes on, but it’s all a blur to me now. The most distinct memory I have of that day was hearing name after name on the loudspeaker, being pronounced dead.
It occurred way too often, every 15 minutes to be precise. The routine almost became ritual– siren, announcement, and silence to follow.
Later on, it was explained to me that all high schools switch off experiencing the program; only upperclassman can participate, and they are chose to fake drunk driving related deaths.
My friend Christian Brouws died that day; a sheriff was sent to his house to notify his family, and he was “dead” for 24 hours to create awareness.
The students who had died that day wore white shirts, and white face paint to resemble the dead.
In addition to a school filled with dead students, firetrucks, ambulances, and sheriffs, there was a demonstration put together outside in which a drunk driving car crash was simulated.
I saw a girl come crashing through her windshield, covered in blood. Everyone gazed in astonishment.
Before fatalities are discussed, the numbers of alcohol-related collisions skyrocket annually in SCV. Most of these accidents result in life threatening effects, if not ending someone’s life altogether.
According to David Schoemaker, Traffic Sergeant at Santa Clarita Sheriff Station. “The program does have an effect for some of the population. Drunk driving is still a problem in this valley. Over the half of the fatal collisions DUI’s have had alcohol involved.” Over 300 this year, and the program should keep going to create awareness. Even if it reaches 1 kid it helps – a group or some will make a difference. Less crashes and arrests will be easier to respond to. For the age group, distracted driving plays a big factor, and it’s a common occurrence. Absolutely use the resources available (safe rides, uber, etc.) Don’t put your life, and others at risk.”
Tiffany Leivo, who experienced the every 15 minutes program as a junior at Saugus High School, says, “It tore me apart; the program really affected my decision making about driving responsibly. My friend who participated in the program, joined to bring awareness to high school/college students who don’t realize the effects of drunk driving and how dangerous, and stupid the act really is.”
Drunk driving is killing too many. The trauma and aftermath effects are passed on to loved ones, those involved, and even strangers.
No one wants a real life every 15 minutes. Make responsible choices. Take action to end it.
Don’t drink and drive.