Photos: Jeremiah Bergman
[KHTS] – Saugus High hosted Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies’ safe-driving reminder to teens Thursday with another “Every 15 Minutes” exercise.
Deputies host the program throughout the year to challenge students to think about personal safety and the responsibility of making mature decisions.
This emotionally charged program is an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with the consequences associated with drinking alcohol, reckless driving and life choices, according to Sheriff’s Station officials.
The program is organized by Sheriff’s Station Deputy Deanna Santino, who coordinates the effort with law enforcement officials, Los Angeles County Fire Department and a representative for the county Coroner’s Office.
“They’re going to listen to their peers, and that’s what we do,” Santino said. “We get the message to them through their peers.”
Santino, who has been involved in the program for several years, said she can see how the tragic lesson can make an impact on the students.
“You get everything,” she said, of the students’ reactions. “Initially, some will take it very seriously, and some will, as soon as we remove a student from the classroom they’ll cry. Sometimes, initially it’s joking, but as the day progresses, the mood of the whole school becomes more somber, and they take it a lot more seriously.”
During many of the programs, the Air-5 rescue helicopter from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Aero Bureau is used to simulate an airlift of a critically injured student to a local hospital.
Several other “injured” students will be treated at the scene by the Los Angeles County Fire Department and taken to a local hospital. The drunk driver will be arrested and will be taken to the Santa Clarita Superior Court where a simulated conviction for manslaughter will occur.
Following the school demonstration and court proceedings, the program participants will visit the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Grove at Central Park and the Eternal Valley Mortuary.
Guest speakers also talk to program participants at the Youth Grove.
Funding for the program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the California Highway Patrol and the City of Santa Clarita.
The students involved in the 2-day program will then visit a local hotel for dinner, where community members who have experienced real-life drunk driving related tragedies in their family and counselors will speak to them about how it feels to lose a loved one in a drunk driving related incident, according to a Sheriff’s Station Nixle report.
The student participants will also draft a letter to be given to their parents that begins with this phrase: “Yesterday I was killed by a drunk driver and I never got to tell you….”