Harrison High School participated in the Every 15 Minutes program on April 13 and 14.
The program occurs every two years and is intended for juniors and seniors.
The goal for Every 15 Minutes is to educate students about the dangers of distracted driving.
When the program began, the focus was on drunk driving, but now due to the prevalence of cell phones, it also aims to educate about texting and driving.
This is the eighth time Every 15 Minutes has taken place at Harrison.
Twenty-one students, all juniors and seniors, “died” in order to stress the importance of not driving while drunk or distracted.
When a student “died,” the Grim Reaper would tap him or her on the shoulder and the student would get up and lie on a gurney.
As the student was rolled out, a police officer would read his or her obituary to the class.
Someone “died” every 15 minutes.
Later in the day, juniors and seniors gathered near the south parking lot to watch the aftermath of a staged car crash.
Firetrucks and ambulances pulled up to the scene, which consisted of two cars, one of which was overturned completely.
Speakers amplified what the firemen and police officers were saying so students could know what was going on.
The drivers of the cars were not injured, but all of the passengers were.
Anna Miller was pronounced dead at the scene, while Abby Summers was airlifted and taken to the hospital, and they pronounced her dead there.
Chris King was taken in an ambulance to the hospital.
The next day, students attended a convocation about the program.
The convocation included guest speakers and a video made by the Harrison Announcements team.
Participants in the program also spoke to the audience about their experiences.
Greg Hockerman, Rosalie Stanley, and Terry Sharp all have ties to the Harrison community and have all felt the effects of drunk and distracted driving.
None of them really wanted to talk about the hard memories, but did anyway because it was important to raise awareness about the issue.
Mrs. Crawford has been working with Every 15 Minutes since 2004.
She, along with a committee of 11 students and eight adults, has been planning this event since January.
She notes that about 75 percent of the program is run by the students, not the adults.
“It takes approximately three months to put everything together,” Crawford said. “In terms of hours, it has to be well over 100.”
There is a lot to plan—the mock crash, the writing of obituaries, and planning the convocation are only a few of the things that must be taken care of.
“Retreat guides, assembly speakers, emergency responders, hospital personnel, police officers, funeral home personnel, judges, attorneys, and many more [must be chosen],” said Crawford.
The student committee is in charge of picking the student participants, and they aim to pick students from all kinds of groups from school.
“I think that’s one of the most important things,” Crawford said. “If you don’t have the right participants, then you are not going to get the impact of the program that you want.”
They also choose the guest speakers.
Every 15 Minutes this year cost about $6,700, and Mrs. Crawford received grant money from the Drug Free Coalition for all but $200 of it.
The program is not the same every year.
Teachers have participated in Every 15 Minutes too.
“Several years ago, Craig Smiley was in the crash and he died on the scene,” Crawford said. “He actually was laying on the ground. Our scenario was that he was coming back from Purdue with some students that were doing some research. He was the person that was ejected.”
In the future, Mrs. Crawford would also like to see a retreat set up for the parents.
After the students “die,” they are taken to a hotel, and there they have their own retreat where they watch videos, listen to speakers, and talk about the experience of Every 15 Minutes.
Mrs. Crawford thinks parents should have a support group too, since this program influences the parents as well.
Mrs. Crawford’s most striking memory from the program is how all the students react.
“In all programs, collectively, I have been totally inspired by the attention and respect the students give during the assembly and the crash scene,” Crawford said. “It is a long time, and kids could get bored, but they always stay focused on the program. This year I was totally blown away by Rosalie's speech and the response she got from the audience,” says Crawford.
Learning about distracted driving is extremely important for teenagers, since automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for that age group.
“It’s pretty scary when you think [texting and driving] translates to eight beers,” Crawford said. “The drinking and driving doesn’t necessarily relate to them but using the phone relates to everybody.
“The time and the money is well worth it if we can encourage anyone to change their habits.”