This painful prospect has not escaped the attention of school officials and the California Highway Patrol, whose officers often are the first responders who witness the trauma caused when a drunken teenager loses control of a vehicle and becomes seriously injured or worse. It is a horrible sight for anyone to behold, but that is exactly what the CHP intended when it put together a graphic program called Every 15 Minutes that works with schools all over the state.
Juniors and seniors at Mountain View High School saw just how horrible a DUI accident can be during an assembly last week on the football field. The CHP officers were assisted by members of the local police and fire departments, and most importantly by students, who played the role of accident victims arranged in frightful poses in or around wrecked cars that were brought to the site. Special effects included fake blood and internal organs designed to shock the students and get their attention about what could, and often does, happen when a DUI accident occurs.
"I know a lot of people think it's OK to drive under the influence, and I really want to show them that this is what happens. We want those kids to have a future," said Sofia Biros, who along with fellow student Kelly Vroom, helped arrange to bring the CHP's Every 15 Minutes program to MVHS.
CHP spokesman Art Montiel said that in 1995 statistics showed that every 15 minutes someone would die in the U.S. as the result of a drunken driving accident. That number has come down, Montiel said. Now the statistical breakdown shows that every 53 minutes someone is killed as a result of drinking and driving. But while she acknowledges that statistics are looking better, Virginia Jones, administrative officer with the ambulance service American Medical Response, said there is still work to do. "We're getting better, but it's not good enough" she said. Other factors that help lower the accident rate are fewer teens driving while drunk, perhaps a reflection that young people are beginning to believe that it is no longer socially acceptable to drive after drinking.
Vroom said that she has a personal reason for working on the event. When she was a young girl, a friend and fellow basketball teammate was killed in a drinking-related accident, an incident that she remembers thinking simply was "not fair."
Vroom and Biros — both sophomores — should be commended for spearheading a program that all involved hope will lead to fewer unnecessary deaths or injuries of high school students who drink and drive. We hope the message lasts through the coming prom and graduation season, with its end-of-school parties where teens are more likely than ever to celebrate with alcoholic beverages.