Golden Valley hosts ‘Every 15 Minutes’ program

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy John Leitelt, left, administers a breathalyzer test to Golden Valley High School senior Dylan Lu who played the part of a drunk driver in front of over 1000 Golden Valley High School seniors and Juniors during the Every 15 Minutes event held in front of Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

During a very somber day on campus, students and faculty at Golden Valley High School participated in the “Every 15 Minutes” program Thursday.

Throughout the day, law enforcement personnel walked from class to class to collect the names of students and/or teachers who had “died” at the hands of an impaired driver.

Accompanying the group walking from class to class and removing the mock victims of fatal crashes was the “Grim Reaper,” played once again by Sgt. Wayne Waterman.

Dressed in the stereotypical black robe, white face-paint and carrying a sickle, Waterman would walk into rooms with the band of law enforcement personnel roaming the campus, and call out the names of the one being taken. After which time, the closed circuit, student-run GVTV broadcast would then read out the obituaries of their recently “fallen” classmates.

“I’ve been doing this off and on for 20-or-so years, and it’s the only time we do ‘act,’” said Waterman, in reference to the large number of fatal collisions he and his fellow deputies have been to.

As students in the classrooms watched and listened to their friends’ life story read out, shock was registered on their faces.

“I have friends who, even though I wasn’t that close with them, just seeing that brought tears to my eyes,” said Lola Olatunji, 16, a junior at Golden Valley High School. “I know it can be anyone, and that hurts.”

“This really hits you, seeing your friends and classmates in this actual position… I mean, it’s not real, but it could be,” said Julia Onu, 16, a classmate of Olatunji’s.

After all the students and teachers had been taken, the school was then called out to Robert C. Lee Parkway, where a mock drunken-driving collision between two vehicles played out. During the scenario, the passengers in both vehicles were either injured or dead on arrival, while the “drunk driver” was uninjured.

The students pulled out of the classrooms symbolized those killed every 15 minutes by drunken drivers and stood off to the side, staring at the unfolding action silently.

While the program is shocking, and oftentimes difficult for some students to witness, it is necessary, according to Officer Josh Greengard, a spokesperson with the CHP Newhall office.

“It shows students the grim reality of bad decision making,” said Greengard. “You chose to get behind the wheel; you chose to put the keys in the ignition; you chose to start the car and start driving, and the repercussions are that you killed somebody. … You’re going to be found guilty. And, you’re going to destroy yours and someone else’s life.”

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Caleb Lunetta

Caleb Lunetta