Drunk Driving ProgramsAfter many years of teaching, I once again had to endure the Every 15 Minutes Program. The first day simulates the death of about 20 students and then stages an accident,...

Drunk Driving Programs

After many years of teaching, I once again had to endure the Every 15 Minutes Program. The first day simulates the death of about 20 students and then stages an accident, students playing dead and drunk. The sheriffs, the ambulance, the helicopter and the coroner, all participate to show the students what happens in an accident. The second day is a Memorial service for the "lossed lives". Im wondering what other teachers think of these programs and if other districts do it differently.

Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great topic.  I come from a different perspective than most.  I am a teacher, and I have also lost a family member to drunk driving, and my school has participated in the Every Fifteen Minutes program on more than one occasion.

I'm not wild about these programs.  The intent is good, in that they are trying to use real survivors to make students thnk about their choices, but my experience has been that this is ineffective.

First, students at this age are invincible.  Very few of them can make the connection between their actions and their own fragility.  Hearing older people talk of consequences doesn't usually filter through for them.

Second, even the participants don't always take it seriously.  The last time we had the program, the kids who were supposed to be "dead" were taken to a local hotel, where they smuggled in beer that night and got drunk.  Huge scandal.  Effort wasted, message missed.

Third, I have found it much more effective to tell students while we don't condone it, we know they will end up doing what they want to do, so encourage them to plan ahead, stay over at friends, plan a reliable designated driver before the party, and have an emergency friend you can call for a sober ride.

Some might call that enabling, but I call it realistic.  Much more so than dramatic attempts to scare them into acting more safely.  It just doesn't work.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have worked in two high schools that attempted to reach students through these types of activities. In both schools, a demolished car was put on display in a prominent place on campus where students would have to walk past it several times during the day. They did look, and they didn't laugh or make jokes about it. In one of the schools, a number of students painted their faces chalky white and attended classes as the dead victims of car crashes. They did not speak or engage with others all day long. This proved to be a distraction for a while; after that, it lost its novelty.

We can't know if any of these efforts, anywhere, influenced even one teen to stop and think before making a tragic decision, since we can't know what might have happened but didn't. Any activity that raises awareness has to be considered a positive step, at least.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The community that I live in has basically the same thing. I have a daughter in high school and I know that it has had an impact on her, even though she knows it is not real.

Last years program was really quite emotional. A little over a year ago there was a tragic accident in the community. A woman, along with her 2 year old son and one year old daughter, were driving home. They were hit by a drunk driver and killed. The school put on the drunk driving production but the end was different. They had you walk into a room with lots of photos and even some little clothes. Then they showed a slideshow of the family, playing and loving each other. Then the father walked out and talked about drunk driving and how his family was ripped away from him. It was incredibly sad and memorable-something I (or my daughter) will never forget.

anthonda49 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kids know when something is contrived, and it just turns them off. The situation becomes a big joke, no lesson learned. When a school is hit by the death of a student (s) in a drunk driving or drag racing accident, the situation is more real. Someone they know isn't there any more. Even having someone who lost a child or close friend talking to students about it isn't that effective. It is better than a staged incident. Kids are so numbed by what they see and hear anymore, that nothing is real until it happens to them. Bring on the speakers, find articles in the newspaper, or show the results in pictures, but make it real!

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My district does this more or less the same way.  We don't have helicopters and we don't do the memorial service.

As a teacher, I have never thought much of the whole thing.  I think teens are too smart to be much affected by this kind of play acting.

I remember when I was in HS and they brought a smashed-up car to our school.  I thought it was really dumb because it wasn't a car that had been smashed up in an actual drunk driving accident.

So it just seems like we go to all this effort to make this huge production that, in my opinion, most kids won't take seriously at all.

archteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with Post 5.  For years, our school shelled out money for a professional presentation with huge screens and a "hip" soundtrack (which the kids laughed at, by the way).  Then last year, the school switched gears and invited a mother from a nearby town to come speak.  The mother had recently lost her daughter, who drowned after getting drunk and wandering away from her friends at an outdoor party.  Her simple talk about the emotional impact of her daughter's death did more than any fancy simlation or presentation ever could.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, we don't do this at our high school. The only thing, to me, that seems to get through to kids is to hear directly from friends and families of teenagers who have been killed in drunk driving accidents. One personal account is much more dramatic and understandable to kids than stats and numbers. Kind of like reading the stats of numbers of men killed in the Civil War, and reading the accounts of Mary Chestnut....

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yep - personal stories and testimonies would definitely have a bigger impact, as #10 indicates. I guess the sad lesson is that kids really aren't going to pay attention to such lessons until they know someone who has experienced suffering or bereavement themselves through drunk driving. Adverts can only do so much and if presented in a "lame" way can actually do more harm than good at times.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with post one, most of these things seem pretty lame and I don't think people would learn this way. I think a better way is to invite people who have lost someone through drunk driving and someone who has made the mistake of driving drunk. Real people are the most persuasive. There are great organizations that do this sort of thing.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yep. Huge presentations just seem, for most of them, to feed their stupidity. However, having real live people affected by this doesn’t seem to impact too many of our kids either. They end up leaving talking about their own close calls as if it’s amusing to them or cool.