Rowland Unified School District

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Los Angeles Times - The Home Room (May 16, 2008) - Article on "Every 15 Minutes" Event at RHS

Drunk driving "crash" outside school

There was mayhem at the corner of Otterbein and Killian Avenues on Thursday, in front of Rowland High School: tangled cars involved in a deadly crash, screaming police and ambulance sirens, a medical airlift, a Rowland High student handcuffed and arrested for DUI.

At least that is how it appeared to more than 1,200 juniors and seniors who were surprised when they were suddenly called from classes at the Rowland Heights school to witness a detailed reenactment of the consequences of drinking and driving.

The simulated crash scene, complete with fake blood and a hearse, was another addition in what is becoming a pre-prom ritual at schools across the nation. Rowland High’s prom is Saturday, and school officials hope that if only one student is affected enough by the mock crash to abstain from drinking, it will have been worth it.

It is part of a two-day program created by a Pennsylvania-based organization called Every 15 Minutes, which alludes to frequency with which someone in the United States dies as a result of an alcohol-related traffic collision. The idea is to allow students to experience firsthand the sensations of such an event from the perspectives of everyone involved.

The scene was set using cars mangled in actual accidents. The Los Angeles County Fire Department, Mercy Air and AMR Ambulance Serviced tended to the mock injured, who were taken to Queen of the Valley Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Hospital-Baldwin Park. Custer Christiansen Mortuary collected the dead, the California Highway Patrol and West Covina Police Department investigated, and the student drunk driver was arrested and booked at the Walnut /Diamond Bar Sheriff’s Station.

All of the activities at the school and outside locations were taped and will be viewed at a student assembly today.

Max Zisman, 17, a Rowland High senior, was one of the passengers in the car driven by the drunk driver. He was taken to the emergency room at Queen of the Valley Hospital and pronounced dead. When his mother and father arrived they displayed real emotion even though they knew it was all fake, said Zisman.

He himself was also unnerved.

"It was tough, I didn’t think it was going to be hard to play dead, but it tested me a bit," said Zisman, who added that the message hit home for many of those playing roles. "All of us came from different cliques on campus, different backgrounds and we sat down and talked about it. My best friend ... who is known to party, said this made everything real."

-- Carla Rivera

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