Photos and text by Eric Heinz

A dizzy, inebriated teenage girl stumbled out of a car. Her friends were bloodied, severely injured or dead, having suffered the impact of a (mock) DUI-related crash.

Screams of horror and disbelief shot across the blacktop of San Clemente High School as hundreds of students gathered to watch a demonstration of what happens in these situations—which, the event intended to make clear, happen too often.

On Tuesday, March 28, the Wellness & Prevention Center, in association with Friends Against Drinking and Driving, Orange County Fire Authority, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Orange County Sheriff’s Department, hosted a staged crash scene in which two vehicles driven by high school students collided with one another, killing several passengers and severely injuring more.

The name of the performance was “Every 15 Minutes,” which refers to the statistic that someone is injured or killed by a drunk driver every 15 minutes in the United States. The event is sponsored and administered by the CHP.

The message was intended to reach the students and convince them that drinking and driving can lead to dire consequences.

According to California Highway Patrol statistics, there were two fatal collisions in the San Clemente jurisdiction in 2015 and 2016. Total DUI collisions rose from 60 to 80 between those two years.

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At the end of the performance, the inebriated driver failed a roadside sobriety test—miserably—and was arrested for involuntary vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence as well as the other charges that come with such a crime.

In California, there is a “no tolerance” policy for drivers who are younger than 21 and are arrested for drunk driving, meaning if police detect even .01 percent of blood alcohol content, the driver can be arrested. Driving privileges for people under 21 who are convicted are revoked for one year.

Data regarding DUI collisions and fatalities in San Clemente from the last two years from Orange County Sheriff’s Department have been requested by San Clemente Times but was not readily available before press time on Tuesday, and will be collected for a story in the near future.

On Wednesday morning, March 29, organizers will hold an assembly in the gym with a mock funeral and speakers from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Orange County District Attorney’s Office personnel, who prosecute DUI cases.

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comments (1)

  • Thank you for bringing this event to SCHS! I know it took many volunteer hours to put this event together and I so appreciate it. Over 1,600 students, many of whom will be new drivers this year, were reminded of the importance of not driving under the influence. Thank you for helping to keep our community safe. Marci Mednick, Wellness & Prevention Center

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