Emotion behind E-15

Giasante Comeaux, reporter

working behind the scenes with make up
working behind the scenes with make up

Every day, lives are affected by automobile accidents involving  alcohol or distracted driving, such as texting. Many steps have been taken to bring these numbers down, such as education about consequences and emotional simulation of what its like to experience these tragedies. One such step is a program called Every 15 minutes. This is a two day program targeting teens, specifically juniors and seniors, and is meant to have them thinking about drinking alcohol, driving, personal safety, and the responsibility of making mature decisions. Today I will tell you a little bit about the program, what I learned from one of the participants and finally what I took away from this experience.

The Every 15 Minutes program takes a great amount of planning, in fact when it is a schools very first time participating in the program it can take over a year to prepare for it. It is not the work of one or two people that make this happen but the involvement of many people and agencies; hospitals, courts, lawyers, judges, coroner/ medical examiner, parents, students and school administration. Day one is the crash. During this day students are pulled from the class every 15 minutes, eventually they return as “dead” and do not speak the rest of the day. There is an actual crash, with injuries and emergency staff, in some instances the jaws of life are used but not at the one done at my school. Over the next two days the students will see the consequences with the law, letters from families, parents identify their children as well as feel the dynamics change as another student is called out of class and silenced.

To get a deeper understanding and an insight other than mine I interviewed a student participant named Naomi Atkins. She played the role of a student who died. I asked her how it felt to be a part of The Every 15 Minutes program; she said it was “emotional and life changing”, both of her parents were there. My second question was if she felt it had an impact on students; she said yes, she thinks many of them were impacted, some much more than others. Lastly I wondered how it impacted her personally and if it changed anything for her; she said that it made her think twice about drinking and driving or getting in a car with some one who had been drinking.

As for me, I would say the impact was significant. The assembly was very emotional for me, but I wonder if it is the same for those who have never gone through such a thing. On January 24, 2015 my good friend Alvin was killed in a crash right in our neighborhood. Drinking was not the reason but reckless and distracted driving was. I will never forget the funeral, and giving his Mom a hug, and not feeling sure about what to do or say. This Every 15 minutes brought back some of those memories and the message made sense to me. I don’t know if I hadn’t been through this so recently, if it would have made such an impression.

Regardless of the size of the impression, anytime a message that has life saving information is given, it is important. For some of us the message was instant and devastating, like a knife in the gut, and for others maybe not so dramatic. Even for those less impacted, there may be a time in the future that a good decision will be made because of this experience they had. This program and others like it are important measures of prevention, I wish I could have been more involved.