Michelle Budge, Deseret News
As the first class period begins at a local high school, some staged tragic events — prepared through months of careful planning —will begin to unfold.
Over the next hours the “Grim Reaper,” cloaked in black and carrying a scythe, will roam the hallways, pulling students from classrooms at fifteen-minute intervals to represent “one person killed every fifteen minutes by a drunk-driving accident.”
Each victim’s eulogy will be read aloud by a police deputy, as classmates listen in stunned silence. Later, the twenty “Living Dead” will return to their classes, bearing white face paint and coroner’s tags, and they will remain silent for the rest of the day. Their obituaries will be posted in the school foyer, their gravestones will be erected in the courtyard.
In the midst of it all, local emergency services personnel will simulate a fatal car accident in the school parking lot while students play the roles of drunk drivers and casualties, “bleeding” with gory makeup. A 911 call will be broadcast over the public address system, and sirens will wail as fire trucks, ambulances, and hearses respond to the scene. This is only the first act of an elaborate two-day event known as “Every 15 Minutes”—often called “E15M” for short—in which staged tragedy is produced in an effort to cement a lifelong aversion to drunk driving in the minds of high school students.
These wildly creative, sometimes disturbing reenactments exemplify a trend in educational settings: communities across the country stage various gruesome dramas, aimed at transforming teenagers’ attitudes and behavior. These days, versions of E15M often come with other titles (e.g., “Prom Promise”) and may incorporate the more recent threat of texting and driving as youth culture has evolved and drunk driving enforcement has increased.
Like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) or the Scared Straight programs, proponents believe society has an obligation to warn young people about the consequences of risky and illegal behaviors. But for the high emotional and monetary expenditure of these events, their effectiveness remains a subject of ongoing debate.
The staged tragedy of Every 15 Minutes takes place against a backdrop of real carnage on American highways. Drunk-driving fatalities, as well as public concern about the problem, have been tracked over the years by various government, academic, and advocacy groups. Alarming statistics are easy to find; in fact, the quantity and range of sources of information can be daunting. Countless websites trumpet the “cold, hard, sobering facts” (as AlcoholAlert.com puts it) about the deadly toll drunk driving takes.
However, the real statistics are confounding and do not necessarily correspond to the rhetoric sometimes deployed. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone approximately every forty-five (not fifteen) minutes. This is still a troubling figure, and NHTSA states “car crashes are a leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of fatal crashes involve an underage drinking driver.”
The program’s catchy title, based on a 1980s statistic, persists despite improvements in …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News
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