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Every 15 Minutes program held at Arcata High School

ARCATA- Students at Arcata High School had the chance to witness the reality of drinking and driving.

On Thursday, the student body at Arcata High School witnessed a simulation of some of their classmates dying in a fatal DUI crash.

"The hope is that we educate students to hold each other accountable, to make wise choices, as a result, it's going to make a safer community," said Officer Matt Harvey with the California Highway Patrol Arcata Office.

The simulation included notifying the parents of the victims that their children have died.

"Some high school students are the exception, but most high school students just haven't dealt much with mortality and we want to show them that this is a reality.  You can come to school one day and the person who sat next to you for the last year may not be there as a result of a dui collision and may never be coming back," said Officer Harvey.

The grim reaper also was at Arcata High School and was selecting students to take out of class, representing more loss of life due to drunk driving.  Obituaries were read to the classrooms of the students who were picked.

"Studies have shown that the number one killer of teenagers ages 13-19 are traffic collisions.  This is a critical age for us to be able to influence kids, to give them a little bit of information that hopefully will keep them safer," Officer Harvey said.

Students say the program is powerful.

"It's shocking.  I mean I knew that it was going to happen, but still, being out here and seeing the cars and everything, it was intense.  I want to say it's almost too much but it's just crazy," said Seanne Hoes, a senior at Arcata High School.

CHP officials say the program, which was developed in 1995 by the Chico Police Department, has been successful.

"Here we are years later, now it's every 30 minutes. So what that tells us is our efforts for education and enforcement are making a difference, a positive difference.  It's still a number that we're not satisfied with.  We'd like to see the death rate be greatly reduced," said Officer Harvey.

The Every 15 Minutes program is held at a different high schools in Humboldt County every year, with the goal of having every student see the presentation at least once during their high school career.  The two-day event ends Friday with guest speakers impacted by drunk driving talking to students and a mock trial where the simulated drunk driver is found guilty.

The program was organized by the CHP, the Arcata Police Department and various other agencies.