In a little under two weeks an alcohol-related accident will take place at Dixon High School, a student will lose their life and someone will pay the consequence.
The aforementioned accident will be staged and so will the results of it – but for and juniors and seniors and their family members it will feel all too real.
That’s because it’s meant to be under a unique program known as Every 15 Minutes. Since 2006 the schools have partnered with the Dixon Fire and Police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the Solano County District Attorney and Sheriff’s Department to bring the program to Dixon as a way to curb drinking and driving among local youths.
“The program is geared towards showing teenagers the realities and the consequences of drinking and driving without having the actual effects,” said Dixon Firefighter/Paramedic Nick Warren. “It’s an emotional program, it’s done realistically. The consequences appear very real and it’s emotionally charged for the families.”
What will happen on the campus of Dixon High on April 26 will be no small affair. With careful planning, the agencies involved have set up an elaborate scenario that will be as close to a real accident as it gets Warren said.
Asked how the day will play out Warren said: “In the morning, every 15 minutes a student will be pulled from a classroom, by a subject dressed as a grim reaper. A police officer will go in and read a prepared obituary for that student and what they contributed to the school and to the community, a real life obituary written by that student’s parents. Once that student is pulled from the classroom they are removed from society as they know it.”
This goes on until 10 a.m., when the students will bare witness to a crash scene, Warren said.
“It’s a very realistic crash scene,” he said. “The vehicles are actually damaged, the involved parties are made up to look with very realistic injuries. We will be using our extrication tools, we will be cutting people out of cars, we will be putting them in helicopters and ambulances. The police department will likely arrest somebody who’s potentially been the subject drinking and driving. The scene follows to the jail, to the morgue, to the hospitals.”
Police will make notifications to the students’ families and the families will be going to the hospital, Warren said, where they will get some grim news. The families know that the accident is staged, but for many of them it gets emotional because of the realistic manner in which the agencies pull it off.
“It takes on a real tone for the families,” Warren said.
Day Two of Every 15 Minutes consists of a rally in which a video of the crash will be shown and guest speakers – including individuals who have been affected by drinking and driving – will come in and talk to the students.
“Alcohol use and even more specific, alcohol use when driving is a great concern with teenagers everywhere,” DHS Assistant Principal Nick Girimonte said. “We want to make sure our kids are safe, we want to make sure that we educate them on how to be safe and really empower them to make good choices. And that’s really what this program is about.”
The first Every 15 Minutes was held at DHS in 2006, a subsequent program was held in 2008. Girimonte said he sees many benefits of the program among students.
“Every student here has heard from community members … that drinking and driving is something that’s dangerous,” he said. “But this gives them a chance to actually experience it and feel it as much as they can without it really happening. We’ve been fortunate to have not too many of these accidents, crashes over the year. Last year, students at Maine Prairie lost two students. In some way those students have a better understanding than our students here.”
Asked about the frequency of teenage drinking and driving incidents in Dixon, Police Chief Jon Cox said: “I think it’s a problem everywhere. It’s an area that we’ve improved in over the years but it’s an area that we have to remain diligent and put that message out there.”
Aside from the consequences of death or injury, and jail or prison time, there is the consequence of heavy fines related to DUIs Cox said. An average DUI can end up costing the person convicted of it thousands of dollars in fines and loss of income due to the loss of license.
Anyone who would like to donate funds to this program to help facilitate it can contact Girimonte at Dixon High School at (707) 693-6330.