The Gaucho Gazette

Every Minute Counts

With Every 15 Minutes on the horizon, students must come to terms with the reality of distracted driving. They must weigh the importance of a little fun for the safety of those they love.

Sydney Pearce, Reporter, artist

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   Every 15 minutes, a program that started in 1998, has been a part of almost every student’s life throughout its presence in Petaluma. Its premise lies in the reality of the dangers of distracted driving in teenagers. Every 15 Minutes tries to show students the grim truth of this risk: the risk of losing yourself and someone you love. It attempts to simulate the trauma and sorrow classmates, parents, and teachers can feel the loss of a student.

   In these times, distracted driving is ever-present. With the constant blaring of cell phones and the all too attractive substances to impair reality, teens have become more susceptible to being distracted while driving. Whether it be competitive, personal, or substance-based, removing one’s attention from the road can result in disastrous conclusions. Matt Valdez, a former speaker for Every 15 Minutes, speaks about his involvement in this program.

   “On October 8, 2001, I got into my accident. I lost part of my leg; it changed my life. I was approached by one of the guys in charge of the Every 15 Minutes Program, and he asked me to give a little talk to some students about the dangers of distracted driving, drunk driving specifically. The first rally I attended was in St. Vincent de Paul High School,” said Valdez.

   Valdez also has spoken in some classes at campus. Human Interaction teacher, Lynne Moquete talks about his role in the classroom when he speaks.

   “When Matt talks in class he talks about personal power, making positive choices, and stressing the importance of understanding how the decisions you make now can affect you for the rest your life. His message is important because he has suffered a lot. He would love it if students listen to and he do some of his advice and made better choices. Students like to have him in class. He’s very relatable and a good guy,” said Moquete.

   This program has grasped challenging concepts and intense realizations for many students. Valdez explains the intention of the program.

   “The main goal of Every 15 Minutes is to try and prevent the numerous accounts of distracted driving present in high schools. We try to use what we call ‘shock treatment,’ which is where we show the scene of a simulated crash and have the parents and friends of the student ‘grieve’ over them. We try to show what really happens when you get behind the wheel drunk or high or distracted. We show the damage it inflicts on those who surround you every day,” said Valdez.

   With the presence of this type of program, which focuses on prevention, not abstinence, students can see the hypothetical consequences of their actions. Valdez told of some advice he would give to students in high school today.

   “Be responsible for yourselves and your actions. Your actions have repercussions and consequences. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Don’t be stupid! Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you get into a situation that you are uncomfortable in or in which you feel unsafe, speak up. It’s better to get smart than be dead,” said Valdez.

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