From the first scream, we were all hooked — parents, teenagers and educators. Through gasps, a rush of tears and wide-eyed focused, our minds immediately believed that this simulation was reality.
There was a young girl whose body had been thrown through the front windshield onto her car’s hood; young girls and a boy who were able to escape from the car walked dazed, bloodied, and confused — all three not fully able to get what had just happened.
In the car were a drunken driver and his three friends, who had also been drinking.
There was tortured screams, crying, accusations, disbelief and a sudden reality that something bad has just happened, something so horrific that the sensation of pain was removed.
In the periphery was the walking dead, symbolizing teenagers who had been killed, quietly following the grim reaper complete with scythe in his hand.
The blaring sounds of ambulances, police cars and fire engines pierced the quiet morning air May 2 on Lowell Avenue, in front of West High School.
The scene was eerie.
That evening, parents of the graduating seniors who participated in the program, Every 15 Minutes, gathered in the library at West High to listen to a San Joaquin County judge tell us about the dangers of driving drunk, driving high on drugs, driving while texting and driving distracted.
To our surprise, the judge stated that one of the biggest distractions to our teen drivers was another teenager in the car. He took us through human brain anatomy 101 and explained that the pre-frontal cortex in the brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25.
The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain that gets hit with drugs and alcohol first. It is also the part of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions.
Parents were asked to write a letter to their child to tell them how much they would be missed if they were involved in some accident that would take their lives. The idea brought tears to our eyes.
The parents at this parent meeting did not talk much. Each one was in their own heads praying that something like this would never happen to their child.
The parents that night and the next morning at the assembly at West High were quiet and exhausted. Many parents complained of sustained headaches, inability to sleep and exhaustion as their mind’s eye replayed the collision. The mom who had to identify her child at the funeral home and the parents who went to the emergency room to say goodbye to their child who was killed in the crash, all knew it was not real.
However, just seeing their children lying appearing breathless, battered and bloodied was painful.
What we found out was that it really doesn’t matter how old, how smart or how talented you may think your child is — in the blink of the eye his or her life path could change forever.
The purpose of this program is to not only graphically depict the pitfalls of being impaired; it also is to teach our children to role model for each other and to take care of each other by getting to them emotionally.
Our children were sequestered together in a hotel that Thursday night to interact with the judge, the teachers and the police officers to engage in discussions about the impact of the program on their lives and the lives of their friends.
Parents are not always going to be around to think for their child. Children need to be able to trust that someone out of their group will do the right thing by choosing not to drink and/or choosing to be the designated driver if friends choose to drink.
The judge emphasized choice. Each of us has a choice. It can lead to our detriment or it can lead to fulfillment.
Parents need to give children the tools and the freedom necessary to get out of any situation with a phone call and a choice to do the right thing without our expression of disappointment.
Moms and dads are crucial for the development of children. Parents need to know their children’s friends, should not serve their children alcohol, should role model not drinking and driving – even one glass of wine, should not text while driving and should always wear a seatbelt.
As much as many of our children say they never want to be like us, the fact of the matter is that we all one day end up saying or doing something we said that we would never do, but that our parents did.
Our children are always watching us. As parents, if we choose to do what is right, they will too.
Every 15 minutes, someone dies from an alcohol-related collision.
For more, visit www.every15minutes.com
• Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mom. Her column appears every so often in the Tracy Press. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.