COTTONWOOD, Calif. - Students at West Valley High School in Cottonwood got a sobering look at what can happen when driving drunk as part of the California Highway Patrol’s Every 15 Minutes campaign.
CHP officers along with several other first responders descended on the high school’s football field to give students a simulated look at what can potentially happen when they drink and drive.
“Something like this happens every 15 minutes,” junior Russell Raschein said. “ A minor in the U.S. is killed in an accident involving a DUI.”
The two-day program focuses on high school juniors and seniors and challenges them to make responsible choices if they choose to drink and drive.
It also teaches them how their decisions can impact their family, friends and the community.
“They do go out and drink and party and most of them aren't responsible of how they handle driving home late at night,” organizer Connor Wayne said.
Raschein says even though it’s a simulation, it's not at all far from reality.
“Like this year, we've had at least one DUI accident,” he said. “We had an accident a few nights ago. Both of those involved teenagers from our high school and that first accident really put this plan into motion.”
The program began in Canada, but came to California in 1995 to Chico.
And after all these years, the message appears to be getting across.
“So now instead of a fatal accident of serious injury every 15 minutes related to alcohol and impaired drivers, now I was told it's about 22 minutes,” CHP public information officer Jason Morton said. “22 to 23 minutes somewhere in the United States.”
The program was made possible by grants from the highway patrol and students worked for two semesters to organize the event.
“Hopefully it'll really open their eyes,” Wayne said.
In addition to the mock crash, students will be pulled out of class every 15 minutes to symbolize those lost in DUI crashes.
“If we can eliminate as much as possible and make that one person think twice before they get behind the wheel being inebriated, whether it's alcohol or drugs, then we've done our job,” Morton said.
Students will also hold a mock funeral Tuesday for a teacher killed in the imaginary scenario.
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