On Monday, April 28, New Jersey 101.5 radio station blared out a traffic report of a serious accident near Science Park High School in Newark. Moments later a police car’s siren was heard in the distance, then getting closer and closer. When the car arrived at the scene two policemen got out and ran towards the crashed cars. One officer checked the motionless bodies, one a person lying outside on the hood, the other trapped in a car. The other officer checked a dazed driver and radioed for an ambulance. More screaming sirens that sounded louder and scarier than the first, then almost immediately a University Hospital ambulance and Emergency Medical Services truck arrived. When the extrication equipment was brought out of the truck, everyone was rooted to the spot where they stood. When an actor dressed as the Grim Reaper showed up, it was obvious that for someone, there was no going back.More than 200 Science Park Juniors and Seniors attended the Every 15 Minutes mock scenario, which began with a staged car crash after a teen party and ended with the funerals of the students who had been “killed” by the teen drunk driver. The program is named Every 15 Minutes because of the national statistics whereby a person is killed every 15 minutes due to drunk or distracted driving. In New Jersey, nearly a third of automobile accidents are related to alcohol consumption. The University Hospital/Science Park simulation included motor vehicle accident extrication, ambulances, paramedics, EMTs and transport to nearby University Hospital, where 35 percent of patients admitted to the trauma center in 2012 had a positive (any) alcohol level. The program also included mock court proceedings for the driver, who was found guilty and sentenced to jail, and the taking of other students from classrooms by the “Grim Reaper” every 15 minutes, and being returned in stage make up to appear dead.
The timing for presenting the program in Newark was very deliberate, before the school prom, graduation celebrations and summer parties: a warning not to drink and drive, or text and drive, or talk on the phone and drive.
“This was very real and a warning for all of us not to drink, or text, and drive,” said student Darren Lindsey who already has his driver’s license. Other students were almost in tears as the Perry’s Funeral Home hearse drove slowly down the street leading a procession of 25 ‘walking dead’ students.
Parent representative Denise Crawford summed up the goal of the exercise, “This will save lives, thank you,” she said.
Additionally, on the second day of Every 15 Minutes, Maria Esteves of Elizabeth, New Jersey spoke about her late daughter, Rosemary, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1991 at age eight.