Juniors and seniors attend a mock funeral as part of a drunk driving presentation


A funeral honoring participants in the drunk driving demonstration took place Friday morning in the Spring Valley gym. The funeral was for seniors Chloe Wiley and Ka’Nya Townsend, who were in the crash simulation, along with the 11th and 12th graders who were pulled from class by the Grim Reaper on Thursday. 

Family and friends came to the funeral to show the emotional impact of drunk driving accidents. This is part of the “Every 15 Minutes” initiative that aims to teach students about the dangers of reckless driving. 

Participating students were given the chance to sit with officers and talk about drunk driving. 

“I think, for me, [Every 15 Minutes has] made me want to be more involved in what’s going on with my friends,” said senior Zoe McCracken, who was one of the students pulled out of class on Thursday. “If they’re in a situation where they’re getting into a car with somebody who’s drinking and driving, or they are drinking and feel comfortable to drive, then I want them to be comfortable enough to call me or call someone else.”

Police officers and parents presented a follow-up video to show the aftermath of the crash. Representatives from the initiative talked to students about the dangers of impaired driving. Students and parents read letters about the experience, disclosing what they “didn’t get to tell” their loved ones while alive. 

“When I wrote my letter, I pretty much forgave my parent for all the times I’ve gone in the car going 100 miles per hour, for all for all the times I was terrified while the person was swerving and passing red lights,” said senior Andres Carrasco, who played the drunk driver. “It’s definitely something that needs more awareness.”

The initiative started over 24 years ago in the United States. They go to different schools to teach students about and seen an impact. Since the program started, rates for a crash-related death or injury have lowered from once every 15 minutes to once every 51 minutes. The hope is that students leave feeling changed by the stories and portrayal of a real accident. 

“There is always a way out, and your actions have consequences,” McCracken said. “It’s something that, if you choose to do this … you’re impacting so many lives. … Take precautions and be proactive about situations like that instead of … waiting for it to happen to you.” 

The program also heavily involved the parents in the process, allowing them to sit during the funeral and encouraging them to write letters to their children. At one point in the follow-up video, Townsend’s mother had to receive the news that her daughter had died. 

“Going through the process with my child for two days, it definitely had an impact,” Townsend’s mother, Cassandra Owens, said. “[It) definitely became real. The hospital scene … I was able to sense those emotions and those lost souls in there. People go into that room every day, and not every parent or every family gets to walk out with their child as I did.”

Senior Sukhreen Sandhu, who was pulled from class by the Grim Reaper, had a personal connection to taking part in the initiative. 

“My mom was actually in a car accident, when I was in middle school, because someone wasn’t paying attention,” Sandhu said. “So [participating] just hit me hard because she survived that. … It makes me realize how much it happens. … I’m more aware that it can happen to me anytime, and it makes me take things less for granted and more conscious.”