accidents, driver's education, grief, high school, loss, obituaries, teens, texting
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?
Barbara Lawrence said:
Several high schools in Wiscconsin do follow programs similar to this. They have the police liason officer and the grim reaper appear at the classroom door. They enter and name the student that has died and also the obituary. The “deceased” student, then leaves the classroom along with the PLO and the grim reaper. The stedent then goes to the drama department and their face is painted white. They, then, return to their classes, as a visual representation of reckless or impaired driving. Usually this program occurs just before homecoming or prom weekend. It would be interesting to see statistics on the effectiveness of the program.
This does sound a lot like “Every 15 Minutes.” I would think a visual reminder might sink in more than just seeing statistics.
Lisa Simons said:
Though it sounds gruesome and a bit overboard, I actually wonder if this would do the trick better than what they have now. I haven’t heard of this program, but maybe it would hit home more. I think the families would have to agree to it ahead of time, so that there are no surprises. The surprises would come to the other students who don’t know whose death they’ll hear about. I write this based on my own twins’ driving. Actually, it’s more my son–he acts like he’s immortal and knows everything about driving. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times he’s said, “I’ve been driving since last summer!” I guess I would like to read more about the follow up to the program, what people think about it, if they feel it was effective.
I’d imagine the students chosen to “die” are picked and briefed ahead of time, along with their families.
Ah, the immortality of teenagers! I can just see you in response to his comment! It’s crazy when kids try to pull that stuff!