"Every 15 Minutes" uses gruesome reality to fight impaired driving

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ESCANABA, Mich. (WLUC) - Today the Grim Reaper walked the grounds of Escanaba High School and two students were killed in an alcohol related crash.

Thankfully that didn't really happen and today the school took part in a program trying to see that it never does.

Erin Viau is one of the project coordinators with the program "Every 15 Minutes".

"Well the 'Every 15 Minutes' program is a program that is designed to instill in teenagers the dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol."

A literal Grim Reaper walked through the halls of the high school taking selected students from their classes. Those students represent people killed by impaired drivers.

The students were given make-up and dressed as accident victims.
They then took part in an accident recreation that was shown to the juniors and seniors. No details were spared in the recreation.

This program is a huge undertaking and requires the coordination of community resources. Without the involvement of local law enforcement, emergency services, courthouse, hospital and even a funeral home, the program would not have the impact it is intended to.

"They will respond to the scene as if it were an actual normal crash. The police will come. The fire will come. Rampart will come. The funeral home will show up" said Viau.

But the reality doesn't end there. "They will take them to the jail. They will take the student who is injured to the hospital and the one who dies goes to the funeral home. It's treated as if it's real."

Lt. John Gudwer is with Escanaba Public Safety says the realism is important.

"That's what this is all about. To make these students think of the consequences there are from making that decision to get behind the wheel or even getting in that car as a passenger when someone might be impaired."

And it seemed to have an effect on the students. Christina LaPalm is one of the students selected to be a victim.

"The students have been reacting well to it and pretty surprised so I'm happy. It seems to be working."

After the scene was cleared the and some order was restored the student in the role of the drunk driver was put through a field sobriety test, arrested and taken to the county jail. Later in the afternoon he even made an appearance in court before Judge Parks.

There is a lot of work that goes into the program but Lt. Gudwer summed it up well.

"Our most precious resource is our kids and if we can make one of those kids make the right decision then it was all worth it."

The program will wrap up tomorrow with a school assembly and funeral for those who were lost today.

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