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Photo Credit: poka0059 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: poka0059 via Compfight cc

I recently read about a program held at high schools that takes teens through the “death experience” by simulating car crashes caused by distracted driving. I’m not sure how I feel about some aspects of the program.

When I was in high school, programs like this involved bringing a wrecked car to the school and we’d all file outside to look at it. A police officer or deputy might be on hand to tell us more about the circumstances surrounding the wreck and how to stay safe. In driver’s ed we also watched some films with graphic accident footage. That was about it.

But this program, called “Every 15 Minutes,” sounds quite theatrical and involved. Every 15 minutes, a police officer comes to a classroom to announce the “death” of a student (the “dead” students have been pre-selected). The officer reads an obituary of the student, which had been written by the student’s parents. The obituary explains the accident that “caused” the death and recounts the contributions the student has made to the school and community.

It doesn’t stop there. According to the website, “uniformed officers will make mock death notifications to the parents of these children at their home, place of employment or business.”

While I don’t think it’s good to bury your head in the sand and never think that you may lose a loved one, the process of receiving a mock death certificate of your child could be a little traumatic. Are these parents randomly chosen? “Surprise! Your kid is ‘dead’!” Or did they agree to be a part of this? Even so, what if a grieving parent co-worker is nearby when the “certificate” is issued?

If something like this ends up preventing even one death, it’s worth it. But is having parents write “obituaries” for their kids and kids hearing the obituaries effective? I think kids think about death more than we give them credit for. I just feel like this program presupposes that kids have never thought about these things so we have to dramatically push it into their faces.

Have you ever seen this program or heard of it? I’m curious what educators and teens think. Do teens just end up tuning out something like this?

What do you think?