A California Highway Patrol “Every 15 Minutes” program at a school in San Jose. Courtesy CHP

Every 15 Minutes was an eye opening experience. Not only did I learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but it was crazy to see how much of a larger impact drinking and driving has on teens and the community as a whole.

The California Highway Patrol‘s program offers real-life experience without the real-life risks, according to its web site. The emotionally charged program is an event designed to instill teenagers with the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol while driving. It challenges students to think about drinking, texting while driving, personal safety, and the responsibility of making mature decisions when lives are involved.

Seeing people I actually knew participate in a recent assembly at Sweetwater High School made it feel even more real. Seeing the car crash in front of the campus when they were filming it was an eye-opener. However, seeing it all put together in the mini movie really put things into perspective.

During the two-day event, students were removed from class by the Grim Reaper. Then a police officer would come to the classroom and read the student’s obituary, which included the circumstances of how the student died, and what contributions they had made to the school and community.

A school assembly was held on the second day. It was sad. It was like a funeral for those who had been killed by a drunk driver. There was music and lots of crying. Some of the kids read letters to their parents saying they were sorry for making bad choices and ending up dead.

I think that students my age should really pay attention to these kinds of presentations because it shows us another side to the story of what we hear when people talk about parties. As a member of South Bay Youth 4 Change, we learned about the importance of a social host ordinance.

Social host ordinances make it illegal for anyone to provide a place where underage drinking is occurring. Recently, other SBY4C members and I went to the National City City Council meeting to urge council members to include marijuana in the ordinance to make sure that adults do not provide students with marijuana at parties. It was nice to see that the city council listens to students like me to make sure that we all have safe and healthy communities.

After watching the Every 15 Minutes assembly at my school, making sure we have a good social host law in place seems like the right thing. According to the presenter at the assembly,the frequency of alcohol-related traffic deaths has decreased from one every 15 minutes to one every 56 minutes. That’s a step in the right direction.

Having the woman speak to us about how her cousin passed away due to a drunk driver was very shocking. It’s sad to see that things like this happen in real life all the time, and that there is always a way to prevent it from happening. Adults and teens should work together to make sure that we are all healthy and safe.

Even though it might be teens who are doing the drinking and driving, adults should also be careful when they get behind the wheel. I hope the rest of the students at Sweetwater High School and the school district will make other schools have the Every 15 Minutes presentation so that students, staff and faculty know the dangers that come with underage drinking.

The message to adults is to avoid hosting parties where drugs and alcohol are available to kids.

Brittney Basurto is a rising senior at Sweetwater High School in National City and a member of the South Bay Youth 4 Change, a youth group working in South Bay to address alcohol and drug abuse.

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