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Council Recognizes Teen DUI Prevention Efforts

The city's first annual Health & Safety Awards spotlight an extensive drunk driving education program.

The Beverly Hills City Council on Tuesday honored locals who volunteer time and energy to a national program that seeks to prevent teenage drunk driving.

is a two-day program at high schools nationwide that educates students about the tragedies that can result from bad decisions involving alcohol and automobiles. Its name comes from the very sobering notion that counts one alcohol-related traffic death in the United States every quarter of an hour.

The program "challenges participants to make mature decisions and recognize that their actions can affect the lives of others in a significant way," according to a video that preceded the awards presentation.

"Anyone who's been involved with the Every 15 Minutes program, or knows about it or sees what they do at the high school recognizes that it is a very painful, real and heartfelt experience," Mayor Barry Brucker told honorees who are members of a committee connected to the Health & Safety Commission. "But as painful as it is, thanks to all of you it saves lives. And to that end there is not a more important job you could ever do than save the lives of children."

After the awards presentation, Health & Safety Commission Chairman Peter Landau said "the program is a wonderful opportunity to alert teenagers to the serious problem of drinking and driving."

The program provides students a glimpse of "the entire [DUI] experience and what actually happens to individuals," Health & Safety Vice Chairwoman Debra Judelson said. "You get to see the horrors that happen, the families that are torn apart. It's devastating."

Health & Safety Commissioners Gail Millan and Karén Setian were among those recognized for bringing Every 15 Minutes to Beverly Hills. Setian's 17-year-old son, a student, was killed by a drunk driver.

Setian described the program as "very visual" and said it clearly delivers the message that drunk driving tragedies happen despite denial among teens that "it's not going to happen to them."

"The least we can do is educate them about what can happen," Setian said.

Mike Yamada is a officer active in Every 15 Minutes and was among the evening's honorees in Council Chambers.

"When I'm out in the street, I have ... not as much of an opportunity to influence as many kids as in this ultimate presentation that enlightens them about drinking and driving and their decision making," Yamada said. "If we can catch them now while they're young and impressionable, we can prevent them from driving while intoxicated, risking their lives and other people's lives."

Additional recipients of the 2011 Health & Safety Awards were:

  • Cindy Burrows
  • J. Guidetti
  • Jodi Galen
  • Les Bronte
  • Lisa Kay Schwartz
  • Matt Forman
  • Michelle Halimi
  • Mike Reynolds
  • Nikkie Sedaghat
  • Shawn Shekarchian

Volunteers and BHHS personnel offer Every 15 Minutes every two years. The inaugural event was last May, so the next one will likely happen in spring 2012.

"Every 15 Minutes educates teens about the danger of drinking and driving to our young people like no other program or experience," Councilman Julian Gold said as he closed the awards presentation. "And I'm pleased to say it, Every 15 Minutes now has a permanent home in Beverly Hills. Because of your efforts, many lives will be saved."

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