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March 24, 2010 > 'Every 15 Minutes' at Milpitas High School

'Every 15 Minutes' at Milpitas High School

By Steve Wyant

Nationwide, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 15 minutes. This sobering statistic was presented by Milpitas Police Chief Dennis Graham during the March 16 Council meeting as part of an update on a new program being developed that will graphically illustrate the impact of teen drinking and drunk-driving to Milpitas High School students. The program is scheduled for Wednesday May 12 through May13, 2010.

On January 5, Council directed city staff to work with Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) to develop a program that addresses the issue of teen binge drinking and its impact. According to Chief Graham, the program is designed to be an emotionally-charged event for the students and help them recognize the choices and safety consequences related to drinking alcohol. The program is a combined effort between the City of Milpitas and the MUSD. Graham expects other city organizations might also become involved.

On the first day of the program, a total of 20 pre-selected "Living Dead" students will be escorted out of their classrooms about every 15 minutes by a "Grim Reaper" figure. This is to symbolize the "every 15 minute" statistic and provides a more tangible example of its impact. Once removed from their classes, the "Living Dead" students will don unique clothes and refrain from talking with fellow students for the remainder of the day.

At the end of the school day, the "dead" students will participate in a number of additional activities, including potential field trips to locations such as the county morgue, hospital, courts or jail facilities - locations that typically deal with the aftermath of drunk driving. That evening there will be a chaperoned, overnight stay, either on campus or in a local hotel, with discussion periods related to their experiences and other possible activities.

The event continues on Thursday, back on campus, where members of Milpitas Police Department will conduct a number of exercises to simulate the experience of driving while impaired. Field sobriety tests will be administered to students volunteering to wear "fatal vision glasses", which produce disorientation and blurred vision. Other visual aids on campus will include a real crashed car involved in a drunken driving incident and tombstones representing deceased victims.

To close the event, an assembly will be held in the school theater that will include a video, mock funeral service and guest speakers. Mayor Livengood is scheduled to speak at the assemblies.

After the presentation to Council, Mayor Livengood shared a personal experience. When in high school in 1973, one of his classmates died as a victim of a drunk driver.

"A beautiful young girl, of whom we all thought very highly, died at the young age of 17. It's a tough thing to watch. Young people have to understand there are consequences for their decisions. Drinking is accepted by many but at a young age it's a dangerous activity," he concluded.

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