BLUE HILL — Drive sober and if you need to use your phone, pull over.
Those are two messages Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane hopes to impart to George Stevens Academy students.
GSA, with help from the Sheriff’s Office, is hosting Every 15 Minutes, a two-day program May 3-4 with events to challenge students to think about driving, texting while driving, personal safety and making mature decisions.
“The program really started to address underage drinking and driving,” Kane said. “As technology grows, we created problems that were unforeseen.” One example of that is driving while distracted by a cell phone.
“For the time it takes you to take a phone call, pull over,” Kane said. “You shouldn’t be driving down the road in a 3,000-pound vehicle going 55 or 60 miles an hour looking at your phone. You shouldn’t be having a lengthy conversation while you’re driving anyway.”
Also, “slow the heck down,” the sheriff said.
“If you get involved in an accident, you’re not going to get there any faster,” Kane said.
The GSA administration is enthusiastic about the event.
It’s been at least 10 years since the school hosted an Every 15 minutes program, said Todd Eckenfelder, dean of students.
Meanwhile, many motorists are driving distracted behind the wheel not just teenagers.
“If you take some of the anecdotal evidence, it’s not just kids, it’s a problem with adults too,” Eckenfelder said. “That’s worrisome.”
Nikki Dennison, a Hancock County Regional Communications Center dispatcher and the mother of a GSA sophomore, lobbied the high school’s administration to offer Every 15 Minutes this year.
“My daughter is beginning to drive,” Dennison said. “She just got her permit this year. Plus as a dispatcher, I want them to really see what the consequences are of texting, drinking, drugs and driving.”
“I want them to know it can affect the rest of their life in one way or another,” Dennison said.
The program will run over the course of two days: Thursday, May 3, and Friday, May 4.
Downtown Blue Hill residents and businesses should be aware that there will be lots of sirens the afternoon of May 3 for a mock accident, which will be staged on High Street between the GSA parking lots.
Before the “accident,” a person dressed as the “Grim Reaper” will lead students who have been previously selected out of class. One student is removed from class every 15 minutes, according to the program description.
A police officer will then enter the classroom to read an obituary which has been written by the “dead” student’s parents, explaining the circumstances of their classmate’s demise and the contributions the student has made to the school and the community.
A few minutes later, the student will return to class as the “living dead,” complete with white face make-up, a coroner’s tag and a black Every 15 Minutes T-shirt.
From that point on “victims” will not speak or interact with other students for the remainder of the school day. Simultaneously, uniformed officers will make mock death notifications to the parents of these children at their home, place of employment or business.
The collision will be simulated by students, deputies, the Blue Hill Fire Department, Peninsula Ambulance and other agencies.
The students involved in the program will include “injured” students as well as one “intoxicated or distracted motorist.” There will also be one student who “dies” at the scene.
The injured students will be extricated by the Jaws of Life manned by the Blue Hill Fire Department and EMTs.
Deputies will investigate, arrest and book the student driver.
Student participants will continue their experience by an actual trip to the hospital emergency room and to the Hancock County Jail.
A mock funeral will be held Friday, May 4. Dennison said another aspect of the program she likes is that students will see what volunteer firefighters and EMS workers do at a crash scene.
“I think a lot of kids have no idea what it’s like for them on scene,” Dennison said. “Everyone knows what cops do. Maybe you get some people who think about volunteering.”