Beverly Hills High School students took part in a simulated car accident during Every 15 Minutes, a two-day educational program about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving.
"Even though I knew it was fake, it really hit me hard," senior Sophia Afari said about the replicated crash scene, which featured bloodied students strewn across mangled car wreckage. "I didn't think I would be so emotional, but seeing all my friends in this accident made it very real for me."
The mock May 25 car wreck made Afari think of Vahagn Setian, a BHHS student who was killed three years ago when he was a passenger in an SUV driven by actor Lane Garrison of Prison Break. Garrison jumped a curb and hit a tree going 50 mph on South Beverly Drive near Olympic Boulevard. He later pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and two other alcohol-related charges.
"The lesson I am taking back from today's assembly is not to get distracted behind the wheel—either driving drunk or texting while driving," Afari said. "Accidents affect not only people directly involved, but the people around them and their family and the people who love them."
Every 15 Minutes takes place biannually at BHHS, and only juniors and seniors are included. More than 20 students participate directly in a series of events built around a staged collision caused by a drunk teen driver. The Beverly Hills police and fire departments are on hand to lend authenticity to the event.
"Even though it was a staged crash, everything that we saw here today, I have seen before," BHPD Capt. Dean Guccione said. "There was nothing here that was impossible or unlikely to happen."
Guccione added that his team has responded to many traffic accidents involving cell phone distraction.
"Texting is the new distraction while driving," he said. "You should have both hands on the wheel and be paying attention, and hopefully that will save someone else's life."
Traditionally, Every 15 Minutes is a program about the dangers of drunk driving, but it recently expanded to add distracted driving—such as texting or talking on a cell phone while driving—to the program agenda.
Senior Jonathan Shooshani plans to inform loved ones about the dangers of using a cell phone behind the wheel.
"I don't text while driving, though I know a lot of others who do," Shooshani said. "I intend to spread the message I learned today to my family and friends."