Mock Crash: SPHS Students Watch Aftermath of DUI Accident

Juniors and seniors on Tuesday participated in the nationwide "Every 15 Minutes'' program meant to educate teenagers about the consequences of drinking and driving.

With prom 11 days away, South Pasadena High School kids have lots of decisions to make: Dresses, tuxes, shoes. Hair appointments or do-it-yourself 'dos?

Then, of course, there's transportation. Rent a limo? Ride with Friends?

But one choice they hopefully had a little help with Tuesday, as one student lay beneath an overturned car behind the campus, and another lay motionless beneath a white sheet, is not to drink and drive. The students participated in the national program, "Every 15 Minutes,'' which teaches teens about the often horrific consequences of consuming alcohol and driving. 

At 11 a.m. South Pasadena Police officers and firefighters roared Code 3 to Rollin Street and Diamond Avenue where they found two students heaped onto the pavement, the driver of another car impaired, and the fourth student lifeless.

After climbing out of a crunched vehicle, 18-year-old Alessio Guerra wobbled through the field sobriety test before officers handcuffed the senior and tucked him into the back of a patrol car. Detective John Salcido drove away as another officer told the sizeable crowd of juniors and seniors: One arrested, DUI.

View a photo gallery of Wednesday's exercise here. 

Guerra said although he was assigned the role of drunk driver for Tuesday's demonstration, it was the one he had wanted. He assumed it would be pretty memorable. 

"That was intense... the experience of having to live with something like that, that weighs you down and makes you realize you don't want this to ever happen to anyone else,'' he said, massaging his wrist from where the handcuffs rubbed.

It's a feeling he won't soon forget, he said. 

SPHS participates in "Every 15 Minutes'' every two years. Other components of the program include a "grim reaper" picking students out of class, students coming back from the dead in white makeup, and even mock death notifications to participating parents.


Watch a video of Alessio Guerra after Det. John Salcido removes the handcuffs. 


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Henk Friezer May 01, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Hopefully it will shock kids who observed this. Unfortunately most kids will realize it was only a dramatization, thus will not even phase them. In past years some courts and organizations have taken driving age youngsters to the county morgue to see real results of DUI's and fatal accidents. This has had much more impact than anything that police or schools can do. Maybe an annual trip to the morgue will really give them something to absorb for the rest of their lives
Kim Lesak May 01, 2013 at 05:43 PM
On the other hand, my son, Forrest is a freshman at SPHS and did not understand that this was not real. He entered my car at pickup and talked about "what a sad day" it is and how "most of the school died in a car accident today". Forrest has autism and was not able to extrapolate the message from the drama. While I in no way admonish the intention of the event, I believe a bit more sensitivity in understanding who the complete audience will be needs to be considered more carefully in the future.
Donna Evans May 01, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Hi Kim. Did your son hear about it in the hallways, from other kids? Or was he alarmed when he heard an announcement over the loudspeaker? Good point on how the school might look at informing special needs kids who might not be able to process the theatrical aspect of it, in another manner. My understanding was only juniors and seniors were witness to the mock accident scene outside. He didn't see that did he?
Kim Lesak May 01, 2013 at 06:16 PM
In all honesty, I don't know. That is part of the problem. I am not apposed to what he saw, or what he heard, none of us live in a bubble and neither should Forrest. I am concerned, however, about the lack of support for understanding that I was not able to give him because I didn't know about any of it before hand. I actually only learned of the event upon reading your Patch article covering it. (Thank you for that by the way.) Children on the spectrum benefit from being told about what is going to happen before it happens to get a picture of it set in their minds and thus help the actually physical participation in an event go much more smoothly. We call these "social stories". They are often written and illustrated. I use a simpler approach that I call "setting it up". I set up the series of events in his mind before a new situation occurs to make the whole execution of it go that much easier. It works for us. It would have worked in this case too and would have made Forrest's understanding of what was happening much more clear. Instead, Forrest just got in the car, was distraught, and could only convey that "most of the school died in a car accident today". It was only upon seeing your post that I could put 2 and 2 together. I am of the belief that "alls well that ends well"....in this instance it did...next time who knows.
Ellen Main May 02, 2013 at 03:35 AM
...and it would be helpful to notify Diamond Avenue neighbors. I heard sirens, a low flying helicopter, and saw police officers in bullet proof vests. For 30 seconds I was frozen , thinking about how I could escape my living room. And about where my children were! I cannot imagine what your son must have felt, Kim. And to have to carry that burden all day!


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