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Every 15 Minutes: A crash course in the dangers of driving drunk

Tokay High students get a firsthand look at the consequences of a DUI

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Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:16 am, Fri May 4, 2012.

Jenna Baggs lay stiff and motionless on the ground. Her father, Lodi firefighter Brad Doell, crouched next to her, holding her hand and crying.

Baggs was one of two students "killed" in a simulated drunk driving crash at Tokay High School's Every 15 Minutes assembly on Thursday morning. And even though she and her classmates were only role-playing, the jarring effects of the possibility of seeing their peers lying dead in the middle of the road were very real.

Thursday's assembly marked the 10th year Tokay High School has participated in the Every 15 Minutes program. The program is meant to stop teens from drinking and driving in hopes of preventing fatal crashes. It is named for the statistic that someone dies in an alcohol-related accident every 15 minutes.

In the 10 years that Tokay has participated in the program, no student has died as a result of injuries sustained in a drunk driving accident, according to the school's program coordinator Tammy Foley.

Foley said preparing for the simulated drunk driving crash never gets old, and that students at the high school and their families truly feel the impact of watching what could happen to their loved ones in a DUI situation.

"We haven't lost one (to drinking and driving)," she said. "Knock on wood that we keep that going."

For students involved in the simulated head-on DUI collision, acting out the crash and watching their friends "die" was real enough to draw genuine tears.

Eighteen-year-old Carissa Katzakian, an "injured" passenger in one of the cars, was also the student to make the 911 call that was heard over speakers by students who attended the assembly.

Even though the fake emergency phone call was meant only for the program, Katzakian said she still started to stutter and cry when she made it.

"I did it in one take, surprisingly," she said of making the emergency call. "I got choked up, though, I was panicking. I was shaking after the call."

San Joaquin County Sheriff's deputies, Lodi police officers, Lodi firefighters and AMR paramedics were all present at Tokay High School to help facilitate the removal of "injured" and "deceased victims."

They even transported students playing injured victims to Lodi Memorial Hospital, where hospital staff "worked" on a critical patient before declaring them "dead."

Baggs, who was "dead" at the scene, was taken by the coroner, as would be done in an actual DUI crash where someone is deceased at the scene.

A funeral for the victims of the simulated crash will be held in Tokay High School's gym this morning.

Parents of the "victims" will be in attendance, and according to students who attended a funeral assembly in the past, the event will be emotional.

"We are all really close friends, so seeing them dead or severely injured ... is hard," Katzakian said.

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

WHAT IS THE 'GOLDEN HOUR'?

Retired San Joaquin County Sheriff's Lt. Chris Stevens emceed the event at Tokay High School. At the start of the assembly, he spoke of the "golden hour," which is the first 60 minutes after a crash occurs. During that time, he said, a person has the best chance of survival if they are stabilized by paramedics. After that hour comes and goes, however, the chances of survival drop drastically.

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