On February 28, a Thursday morning, Palm Desert High School juniors and seniors filed out to the parking lot to witness the aftermath of a simulated alcohol-fueled collision.
Led by Deputy Wayne Davidson, the presentation featured student volunteers portraying themselves as high schoolers involved in the collision, with local firefighters and paramedics offering an in-depth look into rescue procedures. It culminated in the emergency transportation of an “injured” student via helicopter and a coroner’s office pickup of a dead student.
The following day, an assembly held in the gym detailed the events preceding the crash. A short film depicted a student’s decision to drive while intoxicated, leading to a collision in the school parking lot with another car full of students. Featuring both a trial and a funeral, the video highlighted the emotional trauma inflicted on victims and loved ones, as well as the legal consequences for perpetrators.
A moving presentation by Louis Bianco followed. Having survived a near-fatal DUI crash, he communicated the impact students have on others’ lives when they choose to drive while under the influence or otherwise distracted.
The event was made possible by the Every 15 Minutes program, a state-sponsored initiative intended to make teenagers understand the dangers of distracted driving. The program’s mission statement describes how the organization “offers real-life experience without the real-life risks.”
“Experiencing firsthand what it was like to die due to a drunk driver was a very emotional experience,” says junior AnaFernanda Cardenas, who portrayed the passenger hit by the drunk driver and killed. Cardenas’ parents were also involved, reacting to the tragic death of their daughter. “It really made me think about drinking, driving, my personal safety, and how fragile life really is.” Cardenas’ twin sister, AnaIsabel, acted as the injured driver of hit vehicle and believes that the program encourages participants to consider the experiences of those who lose loved ones to preventable distracted-driving accidents. As the sister of the “victim,” she caught a glimpse of such pain, reflecting, “We came into this world together, and just imagining life without her was eye-opening.”
Similar sentiments were shared among many Palm Desert students, who found that their classmates’ participation further personalized the program’s message. Calhoon Ledebur, a junior and AnaFernanda’s friend, shared that her role in Every 15 Minutes “made me realize that no one is invincible; these are very tangible risks, and none of us are safe. That is a message that is sure to follow me.” Ideally, this program will encourage teenagers to think twice about their actions and reduce impaired driving among teens.
- Simulated alcohol-fueled crach: DSUSD
- Simulated Student Death: DSUSD
- Alcohol simulated crash: DSUSD