Re-enactments of crashes caused by drunk and distracted driving were performed last week at Malibu High School in an effort to encourage students to think before they get behind the wheel.
By Angelique LaCour / Special to The Malibu Times
When Malibu High School students arrived at school on Thursday last week, little did they know what they were in for. Unbeknownst to all but 27 of their peers, a special program called “Every 15 Minutes” was going to unfold live and in real time throughout the day to demonstrate the tragic consequences of drinking and driving.
Beginning Thursday morning, a sheriff’s deputy began to appear in classrooms, removing a student every quarter of an hour. The students made up the production’s 15 “Lost Kids.” The number of 15 alludes to the sobering statistic that every 15 minutes in America, someone dies in an alcohol-related accident. As each student left the room, the deputy placed his or her obituary on the empty desk.
The student body was then called out to the parking lot by Morning View Drive and seated on bleachers before a giant curtain. Audio of a party played from speakers, followed by the sound of a car crash. The curtains then opened, revealing two smoking, mangled vehicles and wounded or deceased victims painted realistically by makeup artists.
Each car had carried four students, and the crash occurred due to a drunk driver and another driver who turned around to take a photo of the backseat passengers with his cellphone and lost control.
Heightening the re-enactment, four students who take part in the actual science class that collects water samples from Zuma Beach each Thursday came upon the wreckage and called 911. Ambulances arrived, and students’ bodies were pulled out and covered with blankets
On Friday, the student body again gathered, this time in the school gym for a memorial service for the deceased victims of the crash. The students watched a pre-recorded video of the drunk driver, who survived the crash, as he was booked at Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, and later in a courtroom where he was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Parents of the car crash passengers then took the stage to read letters they had written to their children after being “informed” the night before by sheriff’s deputies of their deaths.
The emotional production was aimed at grabbing students’ attention and putting them through the aftermath of what can happen when driving distracted or impaired with alcohol, and it worked.
“It was intense,” said junior Alexander Eddy.
“If you’re going to drink, stay home,” senior Alexandra Eckelman added.
“I’m kind of speechless,” said junior Moorea Maguire. “It’s a huge wake-up call. I’ve been with these people since elementary, even pre-school. It’s close to home-really hits hard.”
Veronica Brady participated in this year’s event with her daughter, senior Maggie Harrington.
“One of the most amazing things about the experience is that our kids get to see how valued they are in this community,” Brady said.
Once the production was over, organizer Sandy Thacker thanked the parents who participated.
“You let us take your kids down this emotional and intense path, and many of you came along as well,” Thacker said. “You helped many of us who kind of held it in, not wanting to think the unthinkable, imagine what it was like.”
A student waiting for her ride home after school perhaps summed it up best when she said good-bye to one of the students who had been a participant, “Thank you for being alive.”
The entire production was filmed, and will be screened again on Tues., March 27 at 7 p.m. at the MHS Theater with a Q&A to follow with some of the student participants. A screening for the community will be held at Malibu City Hall later that week-date to be announced.