'Every 15 Minutes' offers hard-hitting lesson

Program illustrates dangers of drunk driviong
By: Kim Palaferri, Colfax Record Correspondent
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It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, a knock at the door in the middle of the night by the local authorities and chaplain explaining to you that your son or daughter was involved in a fatal accident. Whether the child was the victim or the cause, the message is the same: drinking and driving don’t mix. Unfortunately, statistics show that every 15 minutes, someone dies due to drunk driving.

Colfax High School – along with the California Highway Patrol, Colfax Fire, Cal Fire, Placer County Sheriff’s Office including the PCSO Coroners Office, CalStar, AMR, Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other first-responders presented an “Every 15 Minutes” program for Colfax students on a rainy day last Thursday

The program, as graphic as it is, simulates a drunk driving accident staged on campus. The impact of the scene is meant to be a lasting impression while delivering a message of sobriety. 

For Colfax High senior Amanda Shafer, participating in the event brought several opportunities to send a message to her friends and to herself.  Having never drank alcohol herself, the student wanted to help create a visual impact on the dangers of alcohol consumption and driving while impaired to student and friends.

“Because I have friends who drink and drive under the influence, and I don’t drink – I never have – I wanted to show them the impact of what could happen if they drink and drive,” Shafer said.

In the event that was held on campus on Thursday and Friday, Shafer played the part of a victim who walked away, watching three of her friends die and another being taken into custody during the mock accident.  “I was chosen for a reason because they thought I could have a big impact, but I choose to do it to make an impact on myself, too,” Shafer said.

During the mock accident scene, Shafer appeared distraught over the death of the character portrayed by her good friend Karly Milne who was ejected out of her own car after being hit by teen drunk driver, portrayed by Justin Kotey. The mock accident mimicked a real-life fatal accident scene, in which first responders used the Jaws of life to extricate a victim, ambulances took away victims portrayed by students Edward Webb and Jacob Medeiros, and the Placer County Sheriff Coroner’s office pronounced Milne’s character dead at the scene.  Although the horrific display on campus was fake, the scenario was played out as a real accident scene, following the same protocol.  For dramatic effect, both Webb’s and Medeiros’ characters died in the ambulance en route to the hospital.

Even though the Every 15 Minutes program has made visits to Colfax High in the past, this year’s presentation was largely orchestrated by the efforts of student senior Kelly Beach.  With over 100 volunteers, Beach helped bring the dramatics of the staged crash to life because it was her goal to make an impression on friends and fellow students.

“I heard about it from another school and I realized that we were not offering it at Colfax so I wanted to get involved,” Beach said. 

The school, local law enforcement and first responders, local organizations, and students like Beach and Shafer were able to put together the program due to a $10,000 grant the school received from the California Highway Patrol that cover costs for the motivational speaker, materials and supplies, lodging and even a video production of the two-day event.

California’s adult legal limit is .08 percent by blood alcohol level for ages 21 and above. Anything above .08 percent is considered driving under the influence. For drivers under 21, any percentage of blood alcohol level is illegal because of California’s Zero Tolerance law, which was adopted in 1994.

Throughout the day on Thursday, 20 students were pulled out of class every 15 minutes by the grim reaper, played by Colfax High tech teacher Erin Beatie, to take play the part of the Walking Dead. The 20 students wrote letters to their families, posthumously, and received letters to them written by their parents.  Many were letters of apologies, letters of favorite memories, and letters to remind their families to move on without sadness.  

Every 15 Minutes crash demonstrations take place across the country.   The structure and format are pretty much the same and the idea is that there are adult consequences for underage drinking and driving. Although for some the impact might not be as great as it is for others. “Even if we impact one person, sitting here in the rain was worth it,” Shafer said.

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