Fatal consequences

Every 15 Minutes Program hopes to inform teens about driving under the influence


Kevin Gutierrez

Seniors Enekeyo Sakata and Tenyiah Washington, two of the actors that were involved in the car crash, struggle to wake their friend Marissa Pimentel up. Pimentel was pronounced dead on the scene.

A night out of fun, full of music and drunken laughs. It’s finally time to go home, but you never make it there. The Every 15 Minutes Program aims to inform the youth of the consequences that can come from such decision making.

The program is based on a now old statistic that every 15 minutes someone is killed or seriously injured in an alcohol-related incident. Because of developments in car safety and more awareness to the issue, it is now closer to one person every 45 minutes.

Regardless of what the statistic is now, the prime goal for the program is to let students experience the impact of driving under the influence. Not only do they see the crash but also what happened after — at the hospital, at the morgue, and in the court. President of Summit Solutions Consulting Chris Stevens said, “The idea is that we give students as much information as possible. We have them watch the whole process from beginning to end.”

Stevens is a retired California Highway Patrol Deputy Sheriff and Coroner for San Joaquin County. After 25 years of having to investigate bodies in incidents and going to the family to deliver the news, it has left a scar on him. “It’s a dreadful thing to tell somebody and surprise them with the death of their loved one,” he said. “I made a lot of notifications and when they think of the words ‘Your child is dead,’ they’ll think of my face.”

Preparation for this event began as soon as the year started, but the actors were not given a script. Stevens said, “We have found throughout the years that once we give the actors an idea of who they are and what they are doing in the crash they know exactly what to do because it feels so real.” This was true for senior Marissa Pimentel. She got to play the part of the person who died immediately as a result of the crash. She said, “There are so many things you want to say to people and things that you want to do, but you can’t because you’re dead.”

Pimentel remembers the cold chills that ran across her body as she was being put in the body bag and placed inside the hearse. Once the vehicle was out of sight, she was able to come back to life.
“When I saw my friends running toward me to hug me it made me really happy and it reminded me to value every day. It was relieving.” She also makes sure to express her appreciation for those who surround her. “Every time I say bye to my family or friends I tell them I love them because you never know what could happen to me or to them.” Pimentel promised herself that now at parties, if her friends drink, she will get them home safely.

As for Pimentel’s mother, Maria Marquez Pimentel, Every 15 Minutes was something she was not too comfortable with her daughter participating in at first. She said, “It’s a situation you’re not prepared for in any way at all, even if it’s not real.” But in the end she supported her daughter with this and gained more knowledge of the situation.

“I’ve been more alert when my kids go out,” Marquez Pimentel said. “I hope kids can give greater thought to their actions. It’s so simple to do the right thing. It takes one time for something like this to happen and not only ruin your life but also the lives of those around you.”

Every 15 Minutes will be doing about eight more presentations this year. “The purpose is not to say ‘Don’t drink at all,’ but if you are, do it responsibly,” Stevens said. “When someone’s driving away and you can’t stop them, there should be no one in that car with them. If you love each other then take care of each other.”