Every 15 Minutes leaves lasting impact

School’s biannual event teaches students consequences of drunk and distracted driving


Sidney Zabell

Senior TJ Robertson is prepared to be evacuated by helicopter from the crash scene.

  The sound of screams, police sirens and tears rang through the thick, smoky air on the morning of November 14.

  It was the screaming that was the loudest, mostly from two Granite Bay High School juniors, Samantha Hutchinson and Brenna Halloran, as they had just been a part of a severe car crash and seen one of their friends – Sofia Novaresi – sprawled out on the front of a windshield: motionless, unresponsive.

  Two other students involved in the car crash – TJ Robertson, a senior football player, and Cole Philips, a junior soccer player – also were unable to move as a result of the crash. Although they were still alive when found at the scene, they were both taken to the hospital where they were later pronounced dead due to trauma.

  And then there was the final player in the crash: Matt Solone, a senior who was the driver of one of the cars. After the collision, he was evaluated by the police and was found to be over the legal alcohol limit for driving. He was arrested at the scene.

  However, the crying that could be heard not only came from the mouths of Hutchinson and Halloran. Instead, trickles of whimpering and sobbing could also be heard throughout those who witnessed the crash; the crowd of over 1000 students and faculty members who had been taken out of class to watch the tragedy unfold.

  Because, although real and life-like, the car crash on Wellington Way on the morning of November 14 was completely staged. Anyone who walked by would be able to surmise such, evident by the bleacher full of students who sat just a few feet away from the crash.    

  The simulated crash is the part of a program GBHS puts on every other year, Every Fifteen Minutes, which, through simulating deaths of students and teachers, depicts the danger of drunk and distracted driving.       

  Part of the program also is the Living Dead, where, every 15 minutes of one school day, a student or teacher is taken out of class and pronounced dead, representing (on average) how often a person dies from a drunk driving related incident.

  Every 15 Minutes lasts more than just a school day. After the simulated crash occurred and the Living Dead are taken out of their classrooms, those who participated were kept in close quarters and spent  the rest of the day away from friends and family. They also were prohibited from going to their homes that day, instead having to stay the night in a local hotel.

  Also, as part of Every 15 Minutes, the following day GBHS upperclassman and officials who participated in the simulation gathered in the gym to attend the funeral of the victims of the crash and

The most influential part of the program was the funeral… it was heart wrenching

— Matt Solone, Senior

the Living Dead.

  “The most influential part of the program was the funeral … it was heart wrenching,” Solone said. “(When) the true realization of what I did hit, it felt like I had killed three amazing people, as if the blood was really on my hands. Then it hit me (that) I took those people from their friends and family.”

  The service featured a video produced by the GBHS media team that included the crash simulation as well as adding background into each of the participants’ lives. The service also had a couple of the Living Dead give a last goodbye speech, as well as two mothers who gave their eulogies.

  This was the last chapter in the program.

  There were a wide variety of reason. While some people’s faces were swollen and red with tears, there were also those who did not take the program as seriously.    

  However, regardless of someone’s initial reaction, the whole purpose of the program is to leave a lasting impression on those who witnessed it.

  “I would just say I hope this impacts the students enough that they won’t drink and drive, they won’t text and drive, they won’t be distracted and drive, because your life and other people’s lives can change in an instant,” said Carolyn Mendoza, a community chaplain for the Placer County Law Enforcement. “I would say just keep that in mind when you’re at party, have control. Do everything in moderation, don’t get drunk, don’t get distracted.

  The consequences of one wrong decision, after all, can be catastrophic.

   “Think of your loved ones, (so) live every day as if it were your last,” Mendoza said. “This is a good wakeup call to know that your family and friends may not be here tomorrow. Life is not guaranteed, so you need to treat each other like it was the last day you would see them.”