Rockville Students Participate in 'Every 15 Minutes' Program

Rockville High School students participate in the
Rockville High School students participate in the "Every 15 Minutes" program, which illustrates the dangers of drinking and driving. (By Naomi Brookner -- The Gazette)
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By Melissa J. Brachfeld
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, April 30, 2009

Although the carnage was fake, the emotions displayed during a staged vehicle collision at Rockville High School were real.

Organizers realized some of the tears might have been for the Rockville student who died in a car crash several months before last Thursday's "Every 15 Minutes" program at the school.

Jaishri Shankar, a senior and president of Students Against Destructive Decisions, which leads the program every other year, said it reminds students about the dangers of drinking and driving. This year, the group also addressed hazards such as speeding.

Rockville junior Thiago Andrade died Feb. 1 after a car in which he was riding went off the road and down an embankment, landing in a parking lot. Andrade, 17, was thrown from the car and pronounced dead at the scene. The driver survived.

Montgomery County police have not determined whether speeding or racing were factors in the single-car crash on Veirs Mill Road, Officer Megan Duffey said.

Shankar said Andrade's death is still on many students' minds, and SADD members felt that it was important to continue the program despite its grim nature.

"I think it was the perfect time, because Thiago's accident hit so close to home for so many people that they now realize it doesn't only take alcohol, it takes much less," Shankar, 17, said. "It takes going 10 miles over the speed limit on a road at night when it's dark -- it could be anything."

"Students need to know they're not invincible," she added.

During the program last week, students watched as Rockville police officers and members of the county Fire and Rescue Service and the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department tended three "victims" inside a smashed-up black car to illustrate the dangers of making bad decisions while driving.

The program is based on a national model that began in the 1990s when statistics showed that someone died in an alcohol-related crash every 15 minutes. Today, the number is closer to every 30 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

After firefighters removed the car's roof, they lifted junior Steven Hollies onto a stretcher and wheeled him away. They were joined by a silent black figure with a grinning skull face.

Although no one was truly injured, students got a reality check about the potentially disastrous results of combining drinking, driving and speeding.

"It doesn't hit you until you actually see it," junior Gina Gonzalez said. "Even though it isn't real, it was really upsetting."

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