By Tim Leeds
Students from the Hi-Line will be taking 15 minutes Thursday in Rudyard. All day long.
Blue Sky School is hosting Every 15 Minutes, a national program to show students the potential impacts of drinking and driving.
Jaye Dee Han, a registered nurse from Rudyard who is coordinating the program, said the location seems appropriate.
"It just seems like teenage drinking has been accepted and it's just a rite of passage," she said. "Rudyard is the meeting place, and it always has been, to cruise up and down Main Street. Every Sunday you see beer bottles littered on our Main Street so you know they're drinking and driving."
The program begins about 10 a.m. with visits by someone dressed as the Grim Reaper and by Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera to grades seven through 12. The Grim Reaper will take a student from class, and Szudera will announce that the student was killed on the way to school by a drunken driver, then read the student's obituary.
The student will return to class, with a coroner's tag attached, wearing a black "Every 15 Minutes" T-shirt and white face makeup, and unable to communicate with classmates for the rest of the day.
The drama will build at 12:30 p.m. with a simulated car crash in an area known as the "dust bowl" south of the school. Students from KG and J-I are set to attend as well, Han said.
Emergency medical services personnel will remove a student from a wrecked car and administer first aid. Sheriff's office personnel will arrest the person acting as the drunken driver, who will then face former Justice of the Peace Carol Chagnon for trial and sentencing.
The student "killed" in the accident will have a service run by funeral directors Rlynn and Karen Rockman of Chester. The Revs. Joe Diekhans, Larry Horinek and Tim Singleton will officiate.
The program will hopefully have more impact on the students than the warnings and messages they usually get, Han said.
"They get inundated so much, but nobody is really addressing the issue of if you choose to drink, choose not to drive," she said.
Students should know they should never be in a vehicle with a driver who's been drinking, she said.
Not all of the students will be impacted, but even if the program makes some students stop and think, it will be a success, Han added.
"I think it's about due," she said.
The Every 15 Minutes program gets its name from a statistic computed in the 1990s that someone in the United States dies as a result of an alcohol-related accident every 15 minutes. The program normally runs for two days.
"We're doing a shorter version," Han said.
The complete program includes having the students selected by the Grim Reaper and those involved in the accident spending the night in a retreat, simulating separation from family and friends, and an assembly the following day.
The organizers of the event in Rudyard hope it will lead to family and peer discussion, Han said. Counselors will be available during the event for anyone needing assistance.
On the Net: Every 15 Minutes: www.every15minutes.com