"EVERY 15 MINUTES" is a two-day program focusing on high school juniors and seniors challenging them to think about drinking, personal safety, and making mature decisions when lives are involved. The program's name was derived from the fact that every fifteen minutes someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-related traffic collision. The original idea for the "EVERY 15 MINUTES" program was first introduced to the Chico Police Department during a Problem-Oriented Policing conference, where a similar program had been implemented in Spokane, Washington.

In January, 1996, the Chico Police Department, in partnership with Chico Unified School District, established a seven-member task force whose goal was to coordinate and implement the "EVERY 15 MINUTES" program. This program was intended to be implemented prior to the Junior/Senior proms and graduation ceremonies due to the increase in alcohol-related incidents typically characteristic during that time period. This task force included over 100 representatives form all segments of the community, some include Enloe Hospital, Round Table Pizza, the State Department of Alcohol.

Details of the Program

The first day of the program begins with a prerecorded heartbeat sound played over the public address system at school. Every 15 minutes thereafter, a student is removed from class by the "Grim Reaper". After the student leaves with the "Grim Reaper" a police officer enters the classroom and reads the dead student's obituary written by their parents. The poster size obituary is posted in the front of the class. Approximately twenty to twenty-five "living dead" students are pulled from their classroom throughout the day. The "living dead" students report to a classroom where they are made up to look dead and given a black T-shirt to wear.

At lunch time, a mock fatal DUI collision was staged. The students are alerted of the crash by a prerecorded 911 call played over the public address system. The mock collision involves students who are trapped in a car who would be pronounced dead at the hospital, a drunk driver, and someone who is pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The injured victims are taken to the hospital, the drunk driver is taken to jail, and the "dead" student is taken to the coroner. The collision is staged authentically with medical, law enforcement, and fire professionals who respond. Rescue personal use the "Jaws of Life" to extricate a victim in the car. Parents are taken to the medical facilities to identify students' bodies or give permission to donate organs. The crash is witnessed by the entire student body.

The "living dead" participants return to class dressed in black, portraying a dead victim. They are not allowed to speak or be spoken to.

At the end of the school day, all of the "living dead" students are taken to a local hotel to spend the rest of the evening listening to medical personnel speak, victims who have lived through a DUI crash speak, and write letters to parents. The student's absence is intended to further simulate that he/she is dead. All letters written to parents are to relate feelings that were never shared, and each letter begins:

"Dear Mom/Dad, Every 15 Minutes someone in the U. S. dies in an alcohol-related traffic collision...and today I died...I never got a chance to tell you..."

The program concludes with an assembly the next school day, with all "living dead" students, parents, and school present. The assembly begins with a two minute video segment with footage of students at dances, football games, having fun. Then the scene flashes to the DUI collision the prior day. Following the video, "living dead" students read their letters to their parents. In addition to the letters read by the students, parents, medical personnel and school officials speak about the horror involved. The consequences of poor decision making when alcohol is involved is discussed and how it affects them personally.

The implementation and success of this program has fostered and enhanced partnership between departments and the community being served. This program promotes a community-wide awareness of the importance of making mature decisions when lives are involved. It also demonstrates the importance to our youth just how many people actually care about what happens to them.

In 1996 this program received the California Crime Prevention Officers Association Award and is also the national winner of the

"Excellence in Community Policing Awards, National League of Cities".

This program is available to other communities by contacting the Chico Police Department at (530) 895-4916.

Beverage Control, and the lead agency of the program, Chico (California) Police Department.

Read about the program at Hudson High School:

"CRASH AND LEARN: program deters students from drinking, driving," by Jeff Reinitz Courier Staff Writer. (Hudson)

Hudson High School students were jolted out of their studies by the sound of two cars slamming together just outside the campus this morning.

One of the students was pronounced dead at the scene, and another was thank to the hospital for massive injuries only to be pronounced dead a short time later. A third student was taken into custody for operating while intoxicated.

Fortunately, the scene was not real.

The mock traffic accident was scripted by local school and emergency officials to drive home the dangers of drinking and riving as the students prepare for homecoming.

"Our hope is to impact as many young drivers as possible," said Tony Thompson, a spokesman for the Black Haw county Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's office and the Hudson Police Department are the event's primary organizer.

Black Hawk County led the state in alcohol and drug-related traffic fatalities during the period of 1996 to 1998 with 22, according to Denny Becker of the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau. Over the same period of time, the county was second in overall traffic deaths with 43 and fourth in drug and alcohol related injuries with 369.

Officials in Hudson arranged the damaged cars near the school and painted student volunteers with fake blood and wounds. The rest of the students were then paraded out of the school to witness the macabre scene.

A medical helicopter even touched down in Hudson to evacuate the wounded. The sound of the collision that started the whole program was a timed explosion.

The staged traffic accident is part of a two-day youth drunken driving initiative entitled "Every 15 Minutes" -- after the grim statistics showing that a person in the United Sates dies of an alcohol -related traffic accident every 15 minutes. This is the first time the project has been tried in Iowa, said Sgt. Jeff Marsh of the Hudson Police Department.

During the rest of the day, the loudspeaker will broadcast the sound of a heartbeat stopping and the tone a heart monitor flat line four time an hour. The sound signals a man dressed in a grim reaper costume coming into a classroom at the high school to claim another drunken driving victim. The student is lead out of class, and, seconds later, Marsh will enter the room and read the "dead" student's obituary.

Parents of the victims -- who were told about the Every 15 Minutes program in advance -- prepared obituaries for their children.

The student victims -- just under 30 in all -- are removed from the school and cannot talk with friends or family for the rest of the day and night.

Organizers will give the "dead" students a tour of the emergency room at Covenant Medical Center, and Hagarty-Waychoff-Grarup Funeral Services during the afternoon, and tonight's activities include a retreat at the Riverview Conference Center with Talks from law enforcement and court officials, substance abuse counselors and others who come into contact with the tragedy impaired driving.

Students victims will also be asked to write good-bye letters to their parents describing the emotions and memories.

On Wednesday, officials will take the program to the rest of the student body with a mock funeral for the victim students and a videotape of the previous day's tours. Guest speakers for the assembly will include Penny Westfall, Iowa's public safety commissioner; and Lee Erickson, a national executive committee member for Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Marsh decided to try the Every 15 Minutes program after learning about it at a national highway safety conference in Atlanta.

The project started in Chico, Calif., a community that traditionally had four to six fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents every year during prom wee, Marsh said. After first running the program six years ago and then again every following year, Chico hasn't last a teen to drunk driving during prom week.

"When I heard that, it sold me." Marsh said. "It had to go off."

Marsh said the putting on the program is especially important to Hudson because two residents and one former resident have died in traffic accidents over the past four years -- Hudson junior Juli Farrell died in 1996 after her car was struck by a driver with a .087 blood-alcohol contents; 16-year-old Scott Jeremy Rhodes of Hudson died in a single vehicle accident in La Porte City in 1995; and former Hudson resident Kimberly Sue Stratton died in a June after her car was struck near Altoona.

(Insert) Alcohol-related traffic accidents
Black Hawk County ranked first in the state for alcohol-and drug-related traffic fatalities between 1996 and 1998, according to Denny Becker with the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau. Here's a look at some of the county's alcohol accident numbers for that time span:

Total traffic fatality s 43 2nd in state
Alcohol-related traffic fatalities 22 1st

Total traffic injuries 4,919 4th
Major traffic injuries 356 4th
Alcohol-related traffic injuries 369 5th
Rent, Jeff, "Crash and learn: program deters students from drinking, driving." WATERLOO CEDAR FALLS COURIER, September 26, 2000.

15 MINUTES: Hudson teens get sobering lesson the deadly dangers of drunken driving, by Jeff Rent, Courier Staff Writer. (Waterloo)

The long metal table's presence filled the smallish room in the basement of Covenant Medical Center. fitted with drain holes and two sink basins near the heard, the shiny bed-like table is a piece of medical equipment few teen-agers see.

And, hopefully, the device -- an autopsy table -- is one few young people will even need to use, according to the room's primary inhabitant.

"We hope we never see you here." Dr. Albert Dolan, a medical examiner for Back Haw County, told the 15 or so Hudson High School Students in the room Tuesday afternoon. "you won't see me if you are down there -- other than this time. But we don't want to see you."

The students were a contingent of the "living dead" -- a group of about 30 youths picked to take part in a drunken driving program called Every 15 Minutes.

The program -- so named because statistics show drunken driving claims a victim somewhere in the United States every 15 minutes -- was organized by the Black Hawk County sheriff's Office and the Hudson Police Department t o send a message during Hudson High's homecoming week.

The trip to the Covenant morgue was sandwiched between a visit to the hospital's emergency room and a tour of Hagarty-Waychoff-Grarup Federal Services. In all, it was macabre field trip that spelled out what happens to drunken driving victims and their families.

"It been an eye-opener," said Brian Folker, a senior who played the drunken driver during a mock traffic accident that kicked off the program at 9:15 a.m. "The whole thing has been really eerie."

Earlier in the day, a deputy sheriff dressed as the Grim Reaper walked into a classroom four times an hour to claim a victim.

Although students sometimes greeted the Reaper with challenges of "pick me," the comedy quickly faded and the classrooms became silent as the chosen student was lead out, and an officer read the student's obituary.

The officer's account of the student's life and loved ones left behind brought tears to the eyes of some students.

"That was one of the tougher ones," said Hudson police Sgt. Jeff Marsh after reading Jessica Sewell's obituary. "I could feel the goose bumps crawling up my arm when I was reading it."

Parents, who were told about the program in advance, authored the obituaries and a farewell letter.

"It was the hardest thing we ever had to do in out lives," said mother Catherine Lorenz, who penned the letter for her 16-year-old daughter, Jennifer Lorenz.

Jennifer Lorenz, a junior, was one of two students "killed" in the mock traffic accident and the first victim of the day. Jennifer's father Randy Lorenz, wrote the obituary.

"There was a lot of tears, but ti makes you thin,." Catherine Lorenz said. She said there are always a lot of things parents want to tell their children but never get a chance to because of opportunity never comes.

In the note, the mother went back to Jennifer's birth and recounted the daughter's life and accomplishment. In the end, Catherine Lorenz's letter agonized over how she was unable to protect her in the moments before the fake death.

She started the letter at 9 p.m. Friday and put the pen down at 3 a.m. Saturday. The original handwritten draft totaled 15 pages, but she shortened the final letter to a page and a half.

"This is a great program, and if we save one or two kids, it was worth it," Catherine Lorenz said.

Tuesday's field trip ended with an overnight stay at the Riverview Conference Center in Cedar Falls where the students listed to speakers and wrote their own good-bye letters to their parents. The program continued this morning with a mock funeral at the school.

Reinitz, Jeff, "15 Minutes," WATERLOO CEDAR FALLS COURIER, September 27, 2000 : pages 1 and 4.

Hover, Alexander R; Hover, Barbara A.; Young, Janice Clark, "Measuring the effectiveness of a community-sponsored DWI intervention for teens," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HEALTH STUDIES (2000): 16 (4): 171-176.


updated 12/16/16