Drunk driving affects GBHS staff, students and their families


Loss is experienced by everyone at some point in life.

The Every 15 Minutes program reminds Granite Bay High School students and community members of the horrific consequences and reality that oftentimes accompany drunk driving.

How people go about loss varies, but unfortunately, the pain caused by one decision remains constant and impacts a wide range of people.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10,000 people died from alcohol related driving collisions in 2014.

In the same year, the CDC reported 1.1 million documented cases of people driving under the influence of alcohol or some form of narcotic.  This accounts for only one percent of the 121 million self-reported instances of alcohol-impaired driving.

Ryan Hunter, a junior at GBHS, was pronounced dead on impact during a drunk driving reenactment on Wellington Way in front of Granite Bay High School in November of 2016.

“It’s something that you can read about, watch videos about and have an understanding of, but understanding that sort of emotional pain you would cause your parents if you were to die is challenging,” Hunter said.

After reading a goodbye letter to friends, family members and students during a funeral that was held the day after the collision reenactment, Hunter said he could better understand the effects his own death would create.

“You’re always told that your actions could lead to causing people around you pain, but it’s different to experience that,” Hunter said. “To have to watch your mom cry about your death and really feel that pain, and sympathize and empathize with that – you’re feeling the same emotions.”

Hunter said taking a direct part in the Every 15 Minutes program highlighted how one minor action can lead to serious aftereffects.

“It really made me feel guilty for risks, even (the) small risks I’ve taken in life,” Hunter said. “All actions can have an effect on people’s lives, permanently or momentarily.”

However, for many, the simulated events portrayed by the Every 15 Minutes program are a very serious reality.

Michaela Badaracco, a GBHS English teacher, lost a personal friend, and well known member of the Granite Bay community, during a collision induced by a drunk driver.

Badaracco was not actively involved in the Every 15 Minutes program as a student, but she has sat in the audience both as a high-schooler and as a teacher.

“As a highschooler I understood the purpose of the program and what could happen,” Badaracco said, “but there was some detachment.”

Drinking and driving has disrupted numerous lives within the Granite Bay community.

The effects have reached Badaracco as close as her immediate family.

“My brother and mom were hit by a drunk driver – the car completely totaled – but they were both okay,” Badaracco said.

The experience can be taxing for her to recall, but Badaracco recognizes “just how lucky they were” and personally knows “how much of a risk (drunk driving) is.”

Although some GBHS students have expressed a disconnection to the Every 15 Minutes program, the collision scene is a near perfect portrayal of what takes place.

“As a student it felt sudden and abrupt,” Badaracco said. “But when you do lose someone, it is sudden and

When you do lose someone, it is sudden and abrupt.

— Michaela Badaracco


Steven Ponzo, a former GBHS student, felt both the instantaneous and gradual outcomes of losing his older sister to an automobile collision in 2005.

Having a blood alcohol level three times over the legal limit, Steven’s sister, Lindsay, veered into oncoming traffic on Fair Oaks Boulevard.

“Lindsay was not wearing a seatbelt when her car flipped three times,” Ponzo said. “She was ejected through the windshield and killed instantly … I was never able to say goodbye or get one last hug.”

While attending GBHS, Ponzo watched the Every 15 Minutes reenactment from the audience.

“I was frustrated because some kids weren’t mature enough to see the value and reasoning behind Every 15 Minutes,” Ponzo said. “Some students can’t see that (Every 15 Minutes) is to prevent your family from suffering a tragedy like mine has.”

Ponzo shared his personal account to fellow classmates during his senior year of high school in order to continuously bring light to the subject.

People always think about what happens if someone passed away,” Ponzo said. “They never think about the impact on the rest of their life, and the true meaning behind losing someone.”

The harsh reality remains unnerving for so many and very real to this day.

“I still think about her at least once a day,” Ponzo said. “This nightmare will never leave me – this has more of an impact than anyone will ever be able to imagine.”