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Sobering truths

John HartGrass Valley Fire Department Engine 1 crew members Tony Scarafiotti and Stephen Veach load Gallego onto the CHP helicopter.
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As they ringed the infield at Nevada Union High School Thursday, more than a few students shielded their eyes from the sight of twisted metal and bloody body parts hanging outside shattered windows and crumpled doors.

And though some snickered at the staged drama and mock horror of the “Every 15 Minutes” drunk-driving exercise, a few realized a chilling fact.

It could happen to them.



As crews from the Grass Valley Fire Department, the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, the California Highway Patrol and Sierra Nevada Ambulance swarmed around the bloodied and presumably dead students, Emily Surface flashed back to two years ago when a friend nearly died in a wreck.

“It kind of makes my stomach churn,” said Surface, 16, who nearly lost her friend to an accident at Highway 49 and Gautier Drive. “This looks a lot like the accident, and it reminds me a lot of that night.”




But as crews extricated students from the crumpled Toyota 4Runner and Honda Accord, some students questioned the reality of such an accident, wondering if such an exhibition would actually scare teens away from driving while intoxicated.

Nikki Honeycutt, 17, said the crash didn’t look realistic.

“It looks fake,” the senior said. “It’s not a play. Fake blood isn’t scary.”

A few of the students said they’d be more motivated to stop drinking – and presumably stop drinking while driving – if they were led to a scene with an actual crash.

“So what if the kids aren’t drinkers,” Micaela San Filippio said. “I know a lot of kids that drink and drive, and none of them would volunteer to do this,” she said, adding “I shouldn’t have to risk my life just because other people do.”

According to the California Highway Patrol, 64 males and 19 females between the age of 16 and 19 were killed in accidents in which they were drinking in 2000.

Student “grim reapers” dressed in black hoods and robes walked around the cars, symbolizing the students’ deaths. A loudspeaker blared the details of the crash. A CHP helicopter flew overhead, touching down to transport the victims to medical facilities.

“I guess this makes me realize stuff like this can happen,” said Jamie Pusich, a 16-year-old sophomore who doesn’t yet have his license.

“If you’ve been drinking, maybe it’s best to just spend the night out wherever you are. It would be worth calling your parents rather than dying,” Pusich said.

Mike Bratton, a parent who has sent four children to NU and helped stage Thursday’s event, said students will end up better for having witnessed the crash, staged as it was.

“Let’s not be naive,” he said. “Nobody starts out thinking they’re going to do this, but fun happens, and these are the consequences sometimes.”

Young people killed and injured in alcohol-involved collisions in California in 2000

Age 15

Total killed: 10

Total injured: 327

Age 16

Total killed: 17

Total injured: 454

Age 17

Total killed: 17

Total injured: 664

Age 18

Total killed: 29

Total injured: 1,082

Age 19

Total killed: 50

Total injured: 1,203

Source: California Highway Patrol


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