Never has the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” been more on topic.
The entire town is taking part in the Every15minutes program, which simulates a drunk driving crash while coordinating efforts between local police, fire departments, the hospital, the district attorney and the funeral home -- as well as local students.
The nationwide program offers teens the chance to experience first hand the effects of driving under the influence without the risk of injury. It was started by a police officer in Bethlehem, Pa.
The program is broken up over two days. It will feature a mock crash scene, an arrest and even a statement by parents who have “lost” a child in the mock crash.
It all begins when a “grim reaper” selects a student. A police officer reading an obituary explaining the circumstances of the students “death” follows this along with a traffic collision that is viewable from school grounds.
The scene will have emergency responders and even a coroner to handle fatalities from the accident. Police will arrest the "drunk” driver and transport the participant to jail.
Lori May, is an organizer of the New Providence project. May first witnessed the event when she attended a paramedic conference two years ago. After wards, she was sent for training by her supervisor. When May returned she coupled her efforts with Tracy Beckerman to bring the event to the New Jersey town. May recounts the faces of the students as they witnessed the event, " They were not talking. There was no laughing. there was only quiet, absolute quiet."
Students and other participants selected for the process will then be taken to a local hotel were they will participate in an overnight student retreat. The retreat simulates the separation from friends and family that would occur in real-life.
Counselors and police officers will offer programs that walk students through an audio visualization of their own death. This includes a courtroom case were parents will read an impact statement.
May was there to witness a parent who could not contain his emotions," When he began reading he just couldn't hold it in. His daughter was in the back of the courtroom and she began to cry out. There wasn't a dry eye in the house."
Following the retreat, the parents and students will be reunited with parents and friends at a school assembly.
Students can try on “impaired simulator” goggles so that they can experience firsthand the potentially fatal consequences of alcohol and learn by discussing their roles and experiences.
The focus of the Every15minutes exercise is to stress to teens the impact of their decisions and how many people it truly effects.
May says the key thing that students should take away from this experience is," Don't think this can't happen to you. Because it can."