A sobering lesson

ERHS the scene of mock DUI crash


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Officer Musgrave reacts after responding to the scene of a simulated drunk driving accident as ERHS student Sarah Peyton lies motionless on the ground. Peyton’s character died in the simulation, and a memorial service was held the following day at the school.

MATT TUNSETH

Eagle River High School students were treated to a grisly scene behind the school Wednesday, April 24.

As they filed out of the school, students witnessed what appeared to be a two-car collision with several severe injuries. A blood-covered student laid motionless outside one of the vehicles, and several injured passengers in both cars groaned in pain.

The scene — part of the “Every 15 Minutes” education program — wasn’t real, but it was meant to convey a powerful message about drunk driving.

“This is 100 percent preventable,” said APD school resource officer Wendi Shackelford.

The entire ERHS student body turned out for the mock crash, which was set up to appear as if a drunken ERHS student had T-boned another vehicle in the parking lot behind the school. Students watched as paramedics tended to the wounded while police officers scoured the scene for clues. The student playing the drunk driver was put through a field sobriety test and then “arrested” and taken to Anchorage for an arraignment at the Anchorage Court House.

Shackelford said the two-day program is designed to be as realistic as possible.

“It’s to show students the very real consequences of what that would mean for real,” she said.

With prom and graduation on the calendar, ERHS principal Marty Lang said the spring is an extremely important time to make students aware of the consequences of driving while impaired.

“Certainly we hope it’s effective that, going into prom weekend students make those good choices to protect themselves and their friends,” he said.

The two-day program also included a mock memorial service the day after the crash.

ERHS senior Celeste Fletcher said the event was a reminder of just how dangerous drinking and driving can be.

“It’s pretty scary that can actually happen and it’s scary to think some of the students here actually drink and drive,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said she hears about ERHS students driving while intoxicated “every weekend.”

The problem, she said, is that teens don’t think accidents can happen to them.

“They’re going to think it’s not going to be them so they’re going to do it,” she said.

Charley and Cheryl Peyton are the parents of senior Sarah Peyton, who played the student killed in the accident. The couple said the experience of pretending their daughter had died was gut-wrenching.

“Seeing her lying there, I really did feel like she was gone,” Cheryl Peyton said.

Charley Peyton said he and his wife wanted to support the program to help prevent students from making potentially life-altering bad decisions.

“We’ve had people in our lives suffer premature losses or make dumb decisions they wish they hadn’t,” he said.

Cheryl Peyton said teens often don’t understand how serious drunk driving can be

“When we’re teenagers we haven’t lived long enough to understand the seriousness of our actions,” she said.

Fletcher said she was pleased to see Every 15 Minutes come to Eagle River High.

“I think it’s important that our school takes action,” she said.

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