Simulated crash, funeral teach local students the impact of unsafe driving

Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-related crash. That gut-wrenching statistic is part of a national program aimed at convincing young people of the dangers of drinking and driving.

In case numbers alone won't do it, students at Chelsea High School got a real feel for what it's like to lose someone important to them. Lessons like these couldn't be more timely here at the start of prom season.

Organizers of the "Every 15 Minutes" program hope a mock crash scene, a funeral and a trial will make students think twice about their actions. The Shelby County Sheriff's Office and Chelsea Fire and Rescue coordinated the event.

Student participants Paulina Watts and Nathan George, who became "the living dead," say it was tough hearing their own obituaries and seeing a possible fate if they drive while drinking or texting.

"It was really sad for me because{}I can't imagine my life ending so fast," Watts says.

"One of my teachers cried this morning when the first student got taken out. She took it very seriously which is very good," George says.



Chelsea High School Students To Participate in Every 15 Minutes Program

As prom season approached, some students at Chelsea High School will get a first-hand experience this week of the importance of safe driving. Juniors and seniors at the school will participate in the Every 15 Minutes Program on March 28 and 29. This emotionally-charged program is designed to dramatically illustrate the potentially dangerous consequences of impaired and distracted driving.

The program is presented to students in the form of a simulated vehicle crash involving drunk drivers. It has shown to be an innovative way for children to learn about the dangers of drinking and distracted driving, and is being used in many schools across the nation.

The following events will occur:


Thursday, March 28


8:00 a.m. - The "Grim Reaper" will call pre-selected juniors and seniors out of class every 15 minutes. A deputy sheriff will immediately enter the classroom with a chaplain to read an obituary explaining the circumstances of their classmate's demise and the contributions the student has made to the school and the community. A few minutes later, the student will return to class as the "living dead," complete with white face make-up, a coroner's tag, and a black T-shirt. From that point on, "living dead" victims will not speak to or interact with other students for the remainder of the school day.


1:00 p.m. - A simulated traffic accident will occur on the football field. Rescue workers will treat injured student participants and the coroner will handle fatalities on the scene. A Deputy Sheriff will investigate, arrest, and book a student "drunk driver". That student participant will continue his/her experience by an actual trip to the Juvenile Detention for the purpose of being "booked for drunk driving".


5:00 - 7:00 p.m. - A student/parent participant dinner will be held at Liberty Baptist Church, which will simulate the separation from friends and family. During this time, each student will write a letter to his or her parents starting out with "Dear Mom and Dad, every fifteen minutes someone in the United States dies from an alcohol related traffic collision, and today I died. I never had the chance to tell you" Parents of the participants will also be asked to write similar letters to their children. These letters will be shared at a mock funeral for student fatality victims on Friday.

Friday, March 29


9:00 a.m. - A mock trial for the student "drunk driver" will be held in a courtroom at the law office of Boardman, Carr, Bennett, Watkins, Hill and Gamble in Chelsea.

1:00 p.m. - A mock funeral will be held for student victims, where a project coordinator will guide the audience through the devastating effects of losing a loved one. The focus of the assembly stresses that the decision to consume alcohol can impact many more people than just the one who drinks and texts while driving.


Speakers will include student and parent participants who will read their letters; deputy sheriffs/fire fighters who will share their emotional trauma of dealing with kids killed in traffic crashes; and the mother of Aaron McCombs, who died in a car crash on Hwy. 39 in November 2011 at the age of 18.


Approximately 20 public service agencies and business are involved in this project. The Shelby County Sheriff's Office and Chelsea Fire and Rescue are coordinating the event.