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Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014

News

AGH/LifeFlight Help Local Students Learn “Real Life” Implications of Driving While Impaired

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

On April 24 and 25, juniors and seniors at Fox Chapel Area High School will get a unique glimpse at the tragic impact of losing a classmate in a traffic fatality—more than 40 times.

Fox Chapel Area High School is taking part in “Every 15 Minutes,” an elaborate two-day reenactment and learning experience which brings the harsh and emotional reality of impaired driving to campus. The experience provides students and families with tools to make the right decisions in the driving environment and promote family and community dialogue around the important topic of impaired driving.

The name of the program is derived from the fact that when the program began, someone died in an alcohol-related crash approximately every 15 minutes.

“While this statistic has improved, it is still a huge issue,” said Fox Chapel Area School Board member Eric Schmidt, who serves as Outreach Coordinator for LifeFlight at West Penn Allegheny Health System and is also a paramedic. “This program graphically portrays the devastation and grief that can impact families, schools and communities when impaired driving takes a life.”

During the first day, students are exposed to the scope of car-related deaths through visits from the "Grim Reaper." Every 15 minutes, one student is removed from class and his or her obituary is read to classmates. These students later return to class as the "living dead," complete with white face make-up, a coroner's tag, and a black Every 15 Minutes T-shirt. Each of these 40 students finish out the school day in silence, as a visual reminder of the toll that impaired or careless driving takes on our society.

That afternoon, a mock crash will occur on the school grounds. Rescue workers will treat injured student participants who will experience first hand, the sensations of being involved in a serious, alcohol-related crash. The coroner will handle fatalities on the scene, while the injured students will be extricated from cars by firefighters, treated by paramedics and transported by ambulance or LifeFlight helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital. Police officers will investigate, arrest, and book the student "drunk driver."

After school, more than 40 students directly involved in the program will attend the trial for the drunk driver, officiated by Judge John Zottola and actual prosecuting and defending attorneys.  Students will spend the night at Camp Guyasuta, hearing from speakers personally affected by alcohol–related tragedies and participating in other educational programs. The students’ parents are also invited to hear the speakers and attend an additional seminar on legal issues surrounding teens and alcohol hosted by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.

The second day of the program features an assembly which begins with the “funerals” of the car crash victims and concludes with a presentation by a parent who lost a child in an alcohol-related crash.

Every 15 Minutes is a community-wide effort involving professionals from Fox Chapel, Blawnox, Aspinwall, Parkview and Pleasant Valley fire departments, EMS providers from Parkview, Foxwall, Seneca, Lower Valley and St. Margaret Paramedic Response Team,  police officers from O’Hara Township and Fox Chapel and physicians and nurses from LifeFlight and the trauma center at Allegheny General Hospital.

For more information on the program, visit www.every15minutes.com.

Members of the media are invited to cover the mock crash at 1:30 p.m. on April 24 and/or the funeral assembly at 8:30 a.m. on April 25. Media interested in being on campus for this event are asked to contact Bonnie Berzonski at 412-967-2452 in advance. Please note, there are students at Fox Chapel Area High School who cannot be photographed or interviewed by media.

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