I still shudder when I think about Driver’s Education: the early-morning alarm clock every Sunday, the painfully slow three hours stuck in a classroom (over the weekend!), and the numbingly boring quizzes at the end of each lesson. There are many important lessons teenagers must learn in order to drive safely, but Driver’s Ed provides little help in equipping teens with the necessary knowledge. In my class, pretty much everyone passed the classroom time tapping away on their phones instead of engaging with the lesson plan.
Every fifteen minutes, a fatal car crash occurs in the United States. Clearly, Driver’s Ed is not a trivial matter, though teenagers often perceive it to be.
There is a solution. Students around the country have taken matters into their own hands, bringing the “Every 15 Minutes” program to their schools. In this program, students announce the (fake) deaths of peers every fifteen minutes and often stage a fatal car crash scene, complete with “dead” students in makeup and costume, wrecked vehicles, ambulances, and Rescue Squad officers.
In March 2015, Quince Orchard High School produced its own “Every 15 Minutes” video. It follows several high school students as they decide to attend a classmate’s house party. It presents a plausible course of events. In the video, one girl picks up a drink and her friend asks, “I thought you were driving?” The girl answers, “If I start now and finish in an hour, I’ll be sober, don’t worry.” Breathing a sigh of relief, her friend replies, “oh, okay!” However, the police arrive at the party and eager to escape, the drunk girl decides to drive several friends away from the scene. On the road, she hits a girl who attended the party and opted out of drinking. She injures and/or kills several passengers as well as the girl she hit.
Inspired by QOHS, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students created their own event in April 2016. Every fifteen minutes throughout the school day, B-CC students’ posed deaths were announced over the PA system and their obituaries were posted online. The “deceased” students dressed in black and painted their faces white. They attended their classes and walked through the hallways in silence, representing the “ghosts” of the dead students. At one point, juniors and seniors were brought outside to watch the staging of a clean-up by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad after a few car accidents.
B-CC sophomore Virginia Brown commented, “I thought it was powerful to hear the names of people that I know because it emphasized how anyone can die in these crashes, even friends or classmates.”
B-CC senior Katherine Ellis acted as one of the deceased students in the event. “It was eye-opening being a victim and not being able to talk to my classmates. I’d walk through the halls and everyone was looking at me. It was freaky,” she said.
The Every 15 Minutes program is so meaningful because it adds empathy to the drinking and driving issue. It provides the convincing shock of witnessing a close friend or even just a classmate die in an alcohol-related car accident, without the actual tragedy.
However, the next step is to encourage all high school students to participate in these videos and events. At B-CC, most of the students who participated already knew about the importance of the anti-drinking-and-driving campaign, as did most of their friends.
“Unfortunately, I think it most impacted the people who need it the least…It shocked me how many people still did not take the demonstration seriously and were making jokes throughout the whole thing,” B-CC senior Julia Chertkof remarked.
Still, Chertkof, along with many others, concluded that overall, the program is highly effective. “I thought it was incredibly impactful and definitely affected me a lot. We’ve all been told about the dangers of drinking and driving and it’s a point now that whenever we hear it most people just roll their eyes,” Chertkof said. “But to see it, and to see it happen to your best friends, I think really helped people experience the reality of the dangers and realize how easily it could happen to them.”
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Zoe Nuechterlein of Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School