Police, firefighters and medics rushed to Rio Vista High School on May 1 after receiving a call that two cars were involved in a major traffic collision. A teenaged driver was believed to be under the influence of alcohol.
The two cars were mangled. Several teenagers were badly injured. Empty bottles of beer were found in one of the cars.
Students from the high school watched from the stands of the athletic field as the injured teenagers were loaded into ambulances and helicopters, and rushed to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries. Was this a horrific scene that is every parent’s worst nightmare? No, it was a dramatic reenactment of a DUI crash – all fake, but feeling very real to the participants.
That’s the point of the Every 15 Minutes program.
Statistics show that a person dies every 15 minutes from an alcohol-related traffic crash and that traffic collisions are the leading cause of death in teenagers.
To help bring awareness to this national problem, the California Highway Patrol, the city of Rio Vista, Rio Vista High School, Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center, NorthBay Medical Center, and other local agencies took part in this presentation of Every 15 Minutes.
This emotionally charged CHP program was an event designed to dramatically educate teenagers about the consequences of drinking alcohol and driving, or even texting and driving. It challenged them to think about personal safety and the impact their decisions have on family, friends and the community.
“We say it all the time, don’t drink and drive, but it’s very difficult to really get that message across and have teenagers receive it on an emotional level. But this project does that,” said Chris Bandy, medical director of the Level II trauma center at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center. “As part of the county trauma system, we are here to care for severely injured patients. But it starts with injury prevention education and community outreach.”
The message was timely because prom and graduation season are here, and some students may drink as part of their celebrations. While it was only a simulation, the lessons were very real for teenagers whose lives could be saved by learning about the consequences of their decisions when they are behind the wheel.
The re-enactment took students, who wore dramatic makeup to simulate injuries, from the staged accident scene to area hospitals, including by helicopter to the Level II trauma center at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville. Once at the trauma center, the medical team responded in full force. They assessed the injuries, attempted to stabilize the patients, and in one case, had to inform a parent that their child didn’t survive.
At the end of the dramatic simulation, two of the five students were portrayed as dead. The next day, Rio Vista students attended a mock funeral.
All the events over the course of two days were videotaped, and shown to the students. It was a powerful lesson.
“The takeaway is how much one bad decision can impact your life and the lives of others,” Bandy said. “At this age, kids think they know it all, and this helps them realize they have a lot to learn. This program saves lives, and if it saves just one, it’s all worth it.”
Chyresse Hill is the Regional Media Relations Specialist for Kaiser Permanente, a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.