Mayor's View: Heed the lessons on drunken driving

By Mike Nichols

Recently, I was invited to attend an assembly at Santa Fe Christian School that addressed under-aged drinking and driving. The program, called "Every 15 Minutes," takes its namesake from the statistic that one alcohol-related traffic fatality occurs in the United States every 15 minutes.

The program was a two-day event that directly confronted students to consider the life-and death consequences of their decisions if they choose to drink and drive.

Now, I have to admit, it had been over 20 years since I attended a high school assembly, and I was not quite sure what to expect. Walking up to the auditorium, I knew this was not going to be like any other program that I have ever experienced. There were two hearses parked out front and I was somberly welcomed by students dressed in black.

Inside, the stage was set for a mock funeral for two students that were involved in a simulated alcohol-related fatality collision on campus the day before. Law enforcement personnel and emergency responders that were involved with the dramatic events were present, and added to the solemn, realistic and emotional feeling of the program.

Real-life stories of tragedy and the consequences that result from drinking and driving, including a dramatic video produced by the students of the staged collision, emergency room drama and the death of one of the victims left a lasting impression on all in attendance.

A video of the sentencing trial for the student who was convicted of drunk driving and homicide also included the agony and loss experience by the parents and friends of the deceased students.

The entire experience was extremely intense and very realistic. Words cannot capture the emotion and impact of this program. I literally left the campus feeling numb.

That was the point. The program was powerful and designed to create awareness among students that they are not invincible. It challenged them to think about drinking, driving, personal safety and the responsibility of making mature decisions.

Many victims of drunk driving are innocent by-standers, such as the two students in the program. It is a lesson that our decisions have an impact on our families, friends, and every-single person around us.

Please do not drink and drive.

Mike Nichols is mayor of Solana Beach

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