Screams and frantic cries for help. Shattered windshields. Blood and broken glass covering the ground. One student pinned between two totalled cars. All this made up the frightening, and all too real, Every 15 Minutes drunk driving simulation Tuesday, April 10. At 9:45 all junior and senior classes quietly converged on the A lot turn-around, where they gathered around the grisly,brutally realistic scene. An anxious 911 call from senior Cierra Benavidez was programmed over the loudspeakers, and within seconds shouts and sobs emanated from the wreckage. From the frenzied conversation between Billy Spencer and Harrison Haws, students learned about the circumstances leading up to the tragic accident. Spencer was under the influence of alcohol, and repeatedly despaired over his choice to drive to school.
After the initial panic subsided, the entire scene was swallowed up in silence, save for occasional muffled sobs and whimpers from the two conscious drivers. After an agonizing time the telltale wail of sirens began to reach the ears of the crowd, and soon the whole area was swarming with police and fire trucks and ambulances. Spencer, the only student not seriously injured, was interrogated by a police officer, and let out of the car to be subjected to a drug test. As he was led away from the wreckage, firefighters hacked away at the crumpled doors of the cars, using the jaws of life to free the bloodied passengers.
As Haw and the two passengers, Aaron Vargas and Alberto Jimenez, were carefully loaded onto stretchers, junior Baylee Boden remained pinned between the cars, his motionless body stretched across the hood. As the crowd watched in mute horror, he was finally pried from the wreckage and placed in a body bag. Spencer, who was until then was struggling to complete the sobriety test, began to shout and scream again, begging Boden to be alright. The simulation ended with Spencer handcuffed and placed in a squad car, as the ambulances containing the three wounded victims sped away to Goleta Cottage Hospital.
To further hammer in the devastating effects of drunk driving, every fifteen minutes a student involved in the program was ushered out of their first period class by the grim reaper, who solemnly read their obituary to the class. By the end of the day, the lawn in the quad had been transformed into a cemetery, commemorating those who “died” throughout the course of the day. The library walls were covered with obituaries of the students who has passed.
The next day, students attended an assembly, where they watched in complete silence as a video of the events that transpired before and after the fatal crash was shown. Before that, guest speaker Wendy K. Reynolds shared her first hand experience with drunk driving, through her heart wrenching story of how her parents and baby sister were killed by a drunk driver. Her emotional story, and the video, moved many students to tears and earned her and the student participants a standing ovation.
The event, put on by Friday Night Live, was a chilling reminder that every 15 minutes, someone dies from an alcohol related collision in the United States. This year, Principal Behrens and Dean of Students Garske, and teachers Mr. Thrasher, Ms. MacGregor, and Ms. Castaneda, in collaboration with the California Highway Patrol and other public service agencies, helped create a powerful experience for San Marcos students. Put on throughout the country, the event’s goal is simple; to prevent drunk driving and save lives. All involved in the program expressed the hope that students would take from the experience the knowledge of how their actions have consequences.
“Everybody has a choice whether to drink or not, and if they do, they need to make the simple choice not to drive. ” said Spencer. “Don’t get into situations that put your life in danger; there’s always someone to help.”
Based on the raw emotions and reactions displayed prominently on the majority of students’ faces during the simulation and assembly, this is one lesson that many will take to heart.