So they won’t learn the hard way

On April 6, three people were killed in a drunk driving crash on Highway 94. They were 22, 19 and 17 years old.

On St. Patrick’s Day night, a 22-year-old drunken driver crashed into a Carlsbad lagoon, killing her 27-year-old passenger.

On Feb. 7, a 25-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed in Pacific Beach by a drunken driver who had five previous drunken driving convictions in Texas.

A drunken driver killed Nick Adenhart, a 22-year-old pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, in Fullerton on April 9, after one of the best pitching performances of his young career.

Despite an aggressive campaign against drunken driving, the sad incidents continue to happen. With that, Cathedral Catholic High School students recently went through the Every 15 Minutes program, in which 17 popular students are “killed” by drunken drivers, two in a crash scene staged on the school’s football field.

The crash was not the only thing staged during the program.

To get the full experience, the drunken driver, played by Genevieve Cruzan, was carted off to a cell at the Northwestern Police Division and then to court downtown.

Parents of the students killed and injured in the accidents actually went to Scripps La Jolla to hear news of their children’s fate.

Cathedral parents also attended an Every 15 Minutes assembly on the night of April 23 as part of the Cathedral Cares program. They watched the scenario play out in a film--seeing the students drink before driving to Del Mar Highlands for food and crashing into fellow Cathedral students going home from drama practice.

They watched Father Brian Kelly pray in the ambulance and parents crying at the hospital.

“It was a much more traumatic experience than I expected,” said father Dan Berish, who raced from work to the hospital to learn about his daughter Brook’s “death.”

The impact hit students even harder - Brook even broke into tears describing it.

“The hardest thing for me was having to fake being dead while my parents said goodbye to me at the morgue,” said Cayla Green, who played the part of a teen who had been drinking and got into the car with a drunken driver. “I will never drink and drive. I never want to put my parents in that position ever.”

‘Be a parent, not a friend’

Jeanette Poole, chairwoman of Cathedral Cares, said students have easy access to alcohol and some parents even allow teens to drink at their homes.

She read a letter from an anonymous student about a party last month in which Cathedral students were drinking, smoking pot and “hooking up” while the parents were upstairs.

San Diego judges Federic Link and Carolyn Caietti were in attendance to tell the crowd that the decisions they make as parents are just as important.

Link said 75 percent of teens say they have had alcohol at a party in the last 30 to 60 days and of that group, 30 percent say parents had supplied the alcohol.

Caietti said it is illegal to provide alcohol to minors, and offenders can draw more than $3,500 in fines plus legal fees and up to six months in jail. This is not to mention the ramifications in the case that an accident occurs.

“Parents have to be a parent, not a friend,” Caietti said.

CHP Officer Brad Baehr had commitment cards for parents and students to sign, to encourage students to make a call to parents for help when put in a dangerous situation.

Cruzan, the student who played the drunken driver, said she hopes the lessons learned in Every 15 Minutes will be remembered come prom night on May 9.

“Just don’t drink,” Cruzan said. “You can have fun and socialize without drinking.”