‘Every 15 Minutes’ makes its debut in Ozaukee County


Annie McCormick

Leah McKelvey and Elijah Voss, Grafton High School students, answer questions about the video presentation as part of a panel discussion.

Safety features have become critical for teens receiving their license as new drivers. Automobile safety and technological advancements over the last several years, such as hands-free texting  and sensors that alert drivers drifting out of their lane, are just some of the efforts to reduce the number of distracted and  drunk driving incidents.

However, according to an article “30 Harrowing and Eye-Opening Drunk Driving Statistics” published on Carsurance.com this month, one in three people will participate in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. A convicted drunk driver has driven under the influence around 80 times prior to an arrest, and alcohol-impaired drivers are behind the wheel more than 300,000 times every day, but only around 2,800 are arrested.

Despite multiple safety measures, teens often still engage in risky driving. According to edgarsnyder.com, 48% of kids ages 12-17 report being in a car while the driver was texting, and 1 out of 4 fatal teen car accidents involve underage drinking and driving. So why are there still so many deaths a year, and what is being done to stop this?

“Every 15 minutes” is an emotionally charged nationwide program designed to dramatically instill awareness in students and parents through the creation of a video and mock accident demonstration related to the consequences of drunk or distracted driving.

Grafton High School held Ozaukee County’s first-ever presentation of this program on Tuesday, Oct.29, an event open to all students and parents. The video presentation included a simulation that involved students at Grafton High School consuming alcohol and choosing to drive afterwards, resulting in a major collision that ultimately “killed” several students and left some injured. 

The video included shocking clips of what students looked like after the crash, students being operated on in hospital rooms, cops breaking the news to parents that their children were involved in an accident, a funeral and a courtroom hearing where the driver was sentenced to time in prison and charged with reckless homicide. While the whole video was just a fabrication, it left many in tears because of the reality of this issue in teens and adults in our world today and the consequences that follow these poor decisions made while operating vehicles. 

After the video presentation, three students in the video who portrayed victims, came on stage to have a panel discussion. Along with the students was Melissa Drews, program director at Starting Point, who shared advice for parents who are seeking help regarding their teens’ lives outside of the school day. “Most parents know the basics: asking where your child is going, who will be with them and setting a curfew for them. One of the things parents can do is be very clear on what you expect from them. If you expect them to not drink, be very clear with them and set that rule. If you’re at all unclear or permissible, your teen could use that to justify drinking alcohol,” Drews said. 

Drews also emphasized the importance for parents to create a safety plan with their teens in advance. “Sit down and have a conversation with your teen about how to handle different scenarios. This will let your child know that you’re willing to talk about these things and that they know what you’re able to do for them. I think every parent would rather get the call from their teen at whatever time and go and pick them up than to get a heartbreaking call,” Drews said. 

One of the students on stage, Leah McKelvey, senior, shared about her leadership role for this event. “I started planning this event in December of 2018, and we’ve definitely come a long way. It was a huge time commitment, and I had to give up so much like dance, a majority of my summer and schoolwork. Despite the time consuming part of it, I really loved being in a leadership role for this. I had to reach out to so many different businesses and community members in order to come together for this huge event. A lot of people were really impressed to watch young people take on such a huge event,” McKelvey said.

In order to make this simulation seem as real as possible, pre-selected students were taken out of class on Thursday every 15 minutes, and immediately following, a uniformed police officer entered the classroom to read an obituary written by the “dead” student’s parents. The students later returned to class as the “living dead,” complete with crash make-up and and a white T-shirt. From that point on, “victims” did not speak or interact with other students for the rest of the day. It even went as far as having the “deceased” students stay in a hotel overnight and cut off all communication with the outside world so their friends and family could get the real effect of the void there would be if something happened to one of their loved ones. 

Another student on stage, Elijah Voss, senior, also shared his experience of participating in this event. Voss was one of the students in the video who portrayed a boy who was killed, and the video portrayed his staged funeral.  “When my classmate started reading the obituary at my funeral, I broke down into tears. It was crazy, and I was able to see how impactful distracted and drunk driving is,” Voss said.