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Program illustrates driving dangers to students

A mock crash at Windom Area High School is part of the Every 15 Minute Program, which educates students on the effects of drinking and driving and distracted driving. Erin Trester/Daily Globe

WINDOM — Every 15 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from an alcohol-related car crash.

To improve this statistic, Windom Area High School — in conjunction with the Windom Police Department, Cottonwood County Sheriff’s Office, Cottonwood County Probation, Cottonwood County Emergency Management, the Windom Fire Department and the Windom Ambulance Service — hosted an Every 15 Minutes Program at the school. The program began Wednesday and will continue today.

The two-day event challenges high school juniors and seniors to think before engaging in distracted driving, as well as drinking and driving.

“From 8:30 to 10 a.m. (Wednesday), we pulled one student every 15 minutes from class and painted their faces white to represent the ‘living dead,’” Windom Police Officer Dana Wallace explained. “Those students were unable to speak to their fellow students and teachers to represent the number of people dying due to these types of accidents.”

The students selected as the “living dead” were also part of the scene. As students were filing out to witness the crash simulation, the “living dead” students stood with a grim reaper to represent people who have passed away in alcohol-related crashes.

“The story we’re using for the crash simulation is that in one car (the student) was drinking and driving, while in the other car the student was texting and veered off the road, hitting the drunk driver,” Wallace said. “We did this to show the effects of both drinking and driving and distracted driving.”

Wallace, who also serves as the full-time school resource officer, spearheaded the event and brought it to Windom for the first time.

“A couple of summers ago we saw a high level of kids being seriously injured with alcohol-related crashes,” she said. “I wanted to bring this program to Windom to prevent crashes like this from happening. I’ve seen way too many people be injured from crashes like these.”

The mock crash was set up during the Wednesday event, and the students chosen as the “living dead” were positioned in the crash.

“When the rest of the juniors and seniors come out to see the crash, we’ll pull the tarp off to reveal the accident,” said Kimberly Hall, Cottonwood County’s emergency management director. “We also had the ambulance hidden on River Road, so the kids didn’t see them until they finally pulled up to respond to the accident.”

Fake death notices were also issued to the parents of the “living dead” students.

“It’s a dramatic way to show what can happen in accidents like these,” Wallace said. “I hope this causes students to think about the possible consequences of their actions, and get kids to start thinking twice before they drink and drive or get in a vehicle of someone who has been drinking.”

Students will gather today for an assembly during which a guest speaker will present on what can happen when people choose to drink and drive.

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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