UC Davis Medical Center participates in "Every 15 Minutes" campaign

Posted April 13, 2011

At the end of March, two seniors from Sacramento's John F. Kennedy High School were brought to UC Davis Medical Center emergency department via ambulance, the victims of a devastating drunken-driving accident. One of the students, Nick Tom, was left brain dead. The other student, Tristan Lay, was left a paraplegic.

Every 15 Minutes simulated emergency room scene © UC Regents
UC Davis partners with the CHP and local high schools on an education program that demonstrates for teenagers the consequences of drunk driving. 

Happily, the accident, the ambulance journey to the emergency department and the death and injuries all were simulated. They were part of an annual event called "Every 15 Minutes," a national youth drunken-driving prevention program whose name is derived from the assertion that "Every 15 minutes someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-related vehicle collision."

UC Davis Medical Center has been involved in the program, which takes place each spring, for the past 12 years, according to nurse Christy Adams, coordinator of the UC Davis Trauma Prevention and Outreach Program. Organized by the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Every 15 Minutes is a collaboration between local hospitals, the CHP and local high schools. It is supported nationwide by funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

At the high schools, one student is removed from class every 15 minutes to simulate deaths from vehicular collisions. Later in the day, traffic collisions are simulated at the school sites, and students "injured" in the collision are taken to hospital emergency departments. The students' parents are on hand to learn the extent of their children's injuries. The student who portrays the drunken driver experiences what it is like to be booked into jail. Other students videotape the accident, ambulance ride and hospitalization. The videos are shown during assemblies at the schools on the following day.

"The Every 15 Minutes program challenges teens to think about the consequences of their actions when they drink and drive. It is a powerful demonstration of how a single decision can affect so many lives," Adams said.