Ken Ward of Jordan-Fernald Funeral Home (left) and Blue Hill Firefighter Rusty Candage (right) load a “deceased” teenager onto a stretcher during an Every 15 Minutes mock “car crash” held at George Stevens Academy May 3. PHOTO BY JENNIFER OSBORN

Every 15 Minutes delivers poignant message at GSA

BLUE HILL — One mistake behind the wheel of an automobile — whether due to intoxicants or distraction — can affect lives forever.

To that end, George Stevens Academy, with help from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, the Blue Hill and Sedgwick fire departments and Peninsula Ambulance hosted Every 15 Minutes on May 3 and 4. Others who helped with the program include: Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, Hancock County Jail, Hancock County Unified Court, Hancock County District Attorney’s Office, Acadia Law Group, Jordan-Fernald Funeral Home, Snow’s Garage, Maine Warden Service, Maine Marine Patrol and the Bangor Police Department.

The program depicts tragedies intended to challenge students to think about driving, texting while driving, personal safety and making mature decisions.

In 2015, 2,333 teens in the United States ages 16-19 were killed and 235,845 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Blue Hill firefighter Dave Gulya (far left) and others prepare to “rescue” “the injured” students from the crash.

GSA Headmaster Tim Seeley, said on May 3, “The goal of Every 15 Minutes is to make vivid and concrete for our students the potential consequences of distracted or impaired driving. Seeing how an accident can play out from the moment of impact, through the arrival of emergency responders, to a tragic finish [the “deceased” is taken away], simulates a reality in a way that a discussion or film never can.”

Throughout the first day, teachers and advisors met with students, helping them process the event and take something lasting from it, Seeley said.

Seeley wrote a letter to the school community about his thoughts after Every 15 Minutes concluded Friday.

“While the real measure of success can only be determined over time, by the number of times our students make a better choice when getting in a car than they might have, the program ran very well, and I believe touched many students,” Seeley said.

“Our decisions and behaviors are driven by two factors — logic or reason, and emotion,” Seeley said. “This program is meant to impact both, but most especially our emotional lives, as emotion is the greater force in determining how we act.”

Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff McFarland administers field sobriety tests to a teenager who was “driving under the influence,” at the mock crash.

“By having students view a simulated car accident and its aftermath [emergency personnel arriving to cut the victims from the car, ambulances treating the dead and wounded, and law enforcement arresting the driver who caused the accident], and then attend a mock funeral the next day for the victim, the hope is that students will feel deeply what might happen if they do not take care so they and their friends don’t drive when they are at less than their best and most attentive,” the headmaster said. “If so, they may make better choices in the future than if they had not had these experiences.”

“We are working with our students in their advising groups to help them process what they experienced, to reinforce the lessons we hope they take away from it, and to solicit their feedback on how effective they think the program was,” Seeley said. “We will check in again with them next year to see how lasting the impact was.

“I want to especially thank the deputies and emergency personnel who helped us put this event on,” the headmaster said. “My admiration for them, and what they do, grows every time I interact with them.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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