Where do I begin? Do I start with the crash, the coroner’s visit, the tearful stories shared by the guest speakers, or with the families who were involved? I think it all runs together for me as I recall two days’ worth of the fully immersive Every 15 Minutes program.
There were 12 students chosen to participate; subsequently, that meant 12 families in Boulder City were also chosen. This included siblings, parents, cousins and anyone else whose lives are touched in some way by those 12 students.
Being selected for this program doesn’t mean two days away from school and having fun. It meant two days away from your family, friends, phones, clubs, sports and taking part in activities centrally focused around one theme: Don’t drink and drive.
It also meant parents had to give us one of their most cherished possessions to keep safe. We took their children away from them, physically and metaphorically. These parents knew their children would have a valuable experience through the Every 15 Minutes program, one that may very well save their lives someday.
They were willing to let their children go, they were willing to write down their strongest feelings to share with us and, ultimately, they were willing to experience the pain, grief and shock of answering the door and being told their child had died because a friend was driving drunk.
Some parents went to the hospital to see their child take his last breath. That same child experienced hearing the doctor tell his family he was dead. We are thankful to have the opportunity to make this a mock scenario; but this is not the case for so many people. Every 15 Minutes someone is killed by a drunk driving-related car crash. It’s no accident. Someone chose to drink and then chose to drive.
So many people were brought in and gladly shared their personal, heartbreaking stories about drinking and driving. One speaker, Todd Elwin with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, made an indelible impression because he is restricted to a wheelchair as a result of a drunk driving crash. His message was one that gave the kids a moment to reflect and truly appreciate what they have, because that victim would not let that horrible moment define his life. He would reach out to others and share his story in such a positive way that he was an inspiration to the kids. I know, because they told me.
More of what they told me is how terrified they would be to call their parents if they had been out drinking. Although it’s totally understandable, part of the message I feel is most important is that open lines of communication must be made about this subject in every home, and what must be reinforced daily is that parents would rather drive to pick up their intoxicated child from a party than drive to the morgue to identify their body.
We had the honor of meeting people who have made Every 15 Minutes part of their life’s work. A doctor, a coroner investigator, parents and a state program officer, who have done countless presentations for people in our state. Why? Because drunk driving has affected their lives in some way. Who better to impress upon us that drinking and driving is bad than individuals who have lost loved ones, saved lives and made countless DUI-related death notifications?
During the assembly at Boulder City High School, we heard from Andrew Bennett, who works for the State of Nevada, Office of Traffic Safety. He discussed how his family lost his sister to a drunk driver and how being an Every 15 Minutes speaker has saved lives. Bennett is spearheading a state-funded program called Zero Teen Fatalities. Part of this program is free driver training held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. You can find this free training at www.zeroteenfatalities.com. Zero Teen Fatalities is for people ages 15-20 that have at least a driver’s permit. Not only is the program free, but, some insurance companies provide a coverage discount because of it.
Parenting is pretty much comprised of on-the-job training. We need to give our kids the tools to grow and flourish, despite the countless poor choices they face on a daily basis. Tell your kids every day to call you if they are stuck in a situation where alcohol is involved. It may be a difficult conversation to have, but making yourself available to them, and ensuring they know it, is one of the best ways to keep your child out of harm’s way.
Make a small list of phone numbers on a card and give that to your child so he/she has people to call when in need, and make a copy for yourself, too. Parents should also have someone to call. We are all human and having someone to reach out to can make this world safer for everyone.
March 2. Vagrant: The caller reports a residentially challenged person has made a residence behind the wall to the rear of her property at 11:21 a.m. in the 500 block of Fir St.
Fire: A large fire was spotted by many motorists near the new bypass at 1:19 p.m. in the area of Railroad Pass.
Thought for the day: The Fire department located a large pile of trash aflame at the pit area across from Railroad Pass.
March 3. Suspicious: The caller reports that a young man was pointing a gun at the caller at 9:43 a.m. in the 1000 block of Nevada Way.
Reckless driving: The neighbors are concerned with a pickup spinning circles in the desert behind their residences at 4:35 p.m. in the 1100 block of Olmo Way.
Thought for the day: The very lucky preteen had a pellet gun that he had altered to disguise the orange markings and his mother gladly relinquished the item to the nervous officers.
March 4. Wanted: The disheveled woman loitering around a vacant residence now has a warm room for the night at 12:18 a.m. in the 200 block of Navajo Drive.
Accident: Officers and paramedics are dispatched to the scene of an accident involving a motorcycle and a minivan at 11:56 p.m. in the area of U.S. Highway 93 and Lakeshore Road.
Thought for the day: Accidents involving motorcycles are no joke. Be careful out there.
March 5. Assist other department: Strong winds blow over a street lamp into the roadway at 4:25 p.m. in the area of Wyoming Street and California Avenue.
Assist: Officers assist with more wind damage at 4:58 p.m. in the 800 block of Yucca Street.
Thought for the day: The wind did some major damage this time.
March 6. Vagrant: Officers are dispatched to a report of a homeless with a shopping cart at 12:12 p.m. in the area of U.S. 93 and River Mountain Trail.
March 7. Petty theft: Two men got into a dispute with employees and fled with items at 7:26 a.m. in the 1000 block of Nevada Way.
Accident: Officers are dispatched to a vehicle versus a tree at 10:48 p.m. in the area of Buchanan Boulevard and U.S. 93.
Thought for the day: Both the tree and the driver have felt better after this little event.
March 8. Abandoned vehicles: Several vehicles in the area appear abandoned and the caller requests they be tagged for impound at 1:17 p.m. in the 1600 block of Foothill Drive.
Suspicious: The caller reports strange noises that are frightening her at 11:54 p.m. in the 1500 block of Nevada Way.
Thought for the day: Officers attribute the strange noises to feral cats in the area and forwards the information to animal control to continue its attempts to capture them.
Call of the week: Suspicious: Several passersby report a U-Haul rental truck parked off the roadway and two men who removed a casket and are carrying it into the desert. The UNLV film students are quite surprised with all the flashing lights and attention they have garnered and realize the importance of notifying the appropriate officials the next time they get a good idea at 11:58 a.m. March 7 in the area of mile marker 51 on U.S. Highway 95.
Vanessa Ward, secretary with the Boulder City Police Department, contributed to this article. Tina Ransom is a dispatcher with Boulder City Police Department. She is coordinator of the Boulder City Citizen’s Academy.