Every 15 Minutes Raises Awareness but Drivers Face Other Risks as Well

Recently we had the privilege of experiencing something that only happens at Rio every four years: the Every 15 Minutes program.

As we all know by now, this was a two day event put on with the help of the PTSA and the CHP that attempted to bring attention to the dangers and horrible aftermath of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The program had a mixed reaction, ranging from strong emotions from the friends and families of those who “died” to skepticism of the program’s effectiveness and methods.

There were, however, moments that surely touched the hearts and minds of everyone.

Chief among these was the story of the man who, weeks after his high school graduation, inadvertently killed his best friend while he was driving drunk.

And who didn’t gasp when Mr. Marrongelli suddenly “died”?

On the other hand, as enlightening as the program was for many students, the criticism and jokes should not be considered just the ramblings of disgruntled, apathetic, and immature teenagers. It is never wise to shut out a large group of people who complain without investigating why and what can be done about it. The goal of Every 15 Minutes, after all, is to convince students not to drink and drive.

Several improvements could be made in future presentations of the program.

First, Chris K. of 107.9 promoting his radio station was at least a little out of place.

The look and feel the program was going for the second day, with the music and the coffin and the eulogies, was that of a funeral. Surely, there aren’t that many funerals where DJ’s are out to promote themselves.

Nevertheless, the personal anecdotes and stories shared on the second day were far more touching and effective (and probably promoted more thought on the consequences of drinking and driving) than the Hollywood spectacle of the first day. Violence is everywhere in our society and we are all desensitized to it. The car crash simulation, while it may have shocked people for a time, was not as emotionally and even intellectually complex as the personal stories of those who’d been affected by drunk driving.

In six months from now, a car crash simulation would be less likely then the pain and emotion felt in a real human voice and in a real human heart to stop somebody from making the fateful decision to drive under the influence.

It may be helpful to expand the programs focus to any driving under the influence, not just driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to a 2007 NHTSA study, more than 16 percent of nighttime drivers on the weekend have tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over the counter drugs. According to a 2009 NSDUH study, roughly 10.5 million people drove under the influence of an illegal drug in the previous year.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is especially harmful. An Australian study of 3,000 fatally injured drivers showed that when THC was present in driver’s blood, he was more likely to have been the cause of the accident. The higher the THC concentration, the more likely it was that the driver was at fault.

There are also large increases in risk when marijuana is combined with alcohol consumption.

The happy music in the video shown during the second day assembly, and the presence of the grim reaper, were also a little superfluous.

Finally, it shouldn’t go without mentioning that there’s a major flaw in the concept that on an average of every 15 minutes somebody dies due to an alcohol related car crash.

The truth of the matter is that while that was true at the programs inception in 1995, the rate of car accident deaths due to alcohol intoxication has since declined and on average, in 2008 someone died of an alcohol related car accident once every 45 minutes.

Therefore, we shouldn’t have had multiple interruptions in each class period.

Alcohol related car accidents are not the only kind which can be harmful.

These suggestions for improvement shouldn’t diminish the positive effect the program had on many students, but they should be heeded by those who want the most effective and honest program to help teenagers avoid drinking and driving. It is a worthy goal and should be met in the best way possible.