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Firefighters from Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow fire department use the Jaws of Life in response to a simulated 911 call for a drunk-driving crash at Silver Valley High School in Yermo, California, April 4, 2024. The drunk driving scenario was reenacted as part of California Highway Patrol's Every 15 Minutes campaign, a program targeted to make high school students consider the consequences of drinking and driving.

Photo by Sgt. Anika Avila

Every 15 Minutes: Drunk Driving

15 Apr 2024 | Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

On April 4th and 5th, servicemembers from Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow attended a professional military education opportunity at Silver Valley High School in Yermo, California. The school simulated a drunk driving scenario as part of California Highway Patrol’s Every 15 Minutes campaign. The California Office of Traffic Safety provides funding to the California Highway Patrol so small grants can be allotted annually to 100 high schools throughout the state to perform Every 15 Minutes.

During the first day of the program, servicemembers and high school students were able to watch a simulated car crash. In the scenario, four high school students were racing two vehicles while driving under the influence and crashed. Local law enforcement, the MCLB Barstow fire department, and emergency medical responders simulated real-life responses to the crash. Two of the teenagers involved in the crash survived, one was fatally wounded on site, and the fourth teenager was medically evacuated via helicopter before succumbing to his extensive injuries.

On the second day of the program, a funeral was reenacted for the two teenagers who were killed, showing the audience the widespread impact drunk driving has on people.

The Every 15 Minutes program is designed to challenge high school juniors and seniors to think about drinking, driving, personal safety, the responsibility of making mature decisions, and the impact their decisions have on family, friends, their community, and many others, the California Highway Patrol website states.

During the program at Silver Valley High School, school staff and speakers reiterated that there is no such thing as a drunk-driving accident, only crashes. Every 15 Minutes showed that drunk driving is always a choice, and one bad decision can negatively impact so many lives.

Although Every 15 Minutes is tailored specifically to teenagers, its lesson applies to everyone. In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 13,384 people were killed in the United States due to drunk-driving crashes. All deaths could have been prevented.

To safely operate a vehicle, drivers must have full function of the brain and the ability to think, reason, and have normal muscle coordination. Because alcohol is a substance that limits all these functions, safety is significantly jeopardized when driving under the influence, NHTSA describes.

The NHTSA explained that as alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase. The substance is absorbed through the walls of the small intestine and stomach before moving into the bloodstream and accumulating until it is metabolized by the liver.

A person’s alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood, also known as Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC, NHTSA states. A BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood immensely increases the risk of crashing. Driving with a BAC of .08 or more is illegal in all states, although crashes still occur with a lower BAC.

The University of Texas at Austin University Health Services says that numerous things impact a person’s BAC, but alcohol tolerance is not one of them. A person’s BAC will rise in response to the number of drinks and how quickly the drinks were consumed. A person’s size, body composition, gender, additional drug usage, and food consumption can also play a role in how quickly someone’s BAC will rise.

Although a person may feel fine after drinking, it is critical to know what counts as one drink, and how much alcohol each drink contains. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that one drink is approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. This equates to a 12-ounce beer with 5% alcohol, five ounces of wine at 12% alcohol, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits comprised of approximately 40% alcohol.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture clarifies that adults of legal drinking age should only drink in moderation. This means limiting intake to two drinks or less a day for men, and one drink or less in a day for women.

The consequences of driving while under the influence or intoxication are severe and the decision to get behind the wheel should not be taken lightly. As was portrayed in the Every 15 Minutes reenactment, drunk driving can result in fatalities and injuries. The Department of Motor Vehicles California also outlines that driving while under the influence can result in imprisonment, fines, vehicle impoundment, civil lawsuits, criminal records, and having driving privileges suspended.

With the consequences of drunk driving so great, everyone must be responsible concerning the choices they make. The Centers for Disease Control recommends making a plan if you will be drinking. Designating a driver and calling a rideshare program or taxi can all protect you from getting behind the wheel while under the influence. It is also important to be aware of any prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you are taking. Some affect driving ability or may have side effects if taken with alcohol.

As Every 15 Minutes promotes, people must think before they drink. Be responsible with your choices and protect yourself and those around you by not drinking and driving. Also, be proactive in keeping the roads safe by reporting any drunk driving to 911.

If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol abuse, resources are available. Behavioral Health at MCLB Barstow provides substance abuse counseling services and can be reached at 760-577-6533. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services national helpline can be reached at 800-662-HELP (4357).