A life-and-death drill for students


Atascadero High School students on Wednesday experienced a hint of what it’s like to lose someone because of drunken driving.

The school and local authorities took part in a dramatic production in which students were removed from class every 15 minutes to simulate those who died in a mock DUI crash. Obituaries and a cemetery with tombstones were part of the event. Students also heard a staged 911 call on the intercom signaling the beginning of the lesson.

Today, a student assembly with a funeral scene and presentations is planned. Topics include drunken driving, distracted driving, positive choices and the consequences of driving under the influence.

Other discussions on safety, including a parent forum, are also planned.

The “Every 15 Minutes” program is a two-day lesson funded by the state that’s presented to a different high school each year through local partners in each community. It’s designed to challenge students to think about how their decisions impact family, friends and others.

The title comes from a statistic from the early 1980s that said every 15 minutes someone in the United States was killed in an alcohol-related traffic collision, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety. New laws and grassroots programs have helped bring the death rate down to one death every 30 minutes, the office says.

The community partners in Atascadero’s event included Atascadero High School staff and students; CHP officers; Atascadero Police and Fire departments, San Luis Ambulance; San Luis Obispo County Drug & Alcohol Services; and the drug and alcohol awareness organization Friday Night Live.