Every 15 Minutes Program Educates Moorhead High Students About Impact Of Drinking And Driving

“We are the sum total of every decision we’ve ever made,” Everett Contois told Moorhead High School juniors and seniors as part of the Every 15 Minutes program held April 27-28. 

The four-part program included the living dead, a mock crash, a student retreat, and the mock memorial service and presentations. Every 15 Minutes is designed to show students the consequences of drinking and/or texting while driving and help students make positive decisions.

In 1995, Contois was 18 years old, a three-sport athlete from a well-off family, with an expensive sports car, making him the “coolest kid in school,” he said. 

He was racing his car when the police clocked him going more than 100 mph. Instead of stopping, his friends convinced him to keep going. The police pursued him, but weren’t able to stop him. “What stopped my car was a guy in a pickup that I T-boned going 100 mph,” Contois told the students.

Contois was sentenced to prison and was released when he was 32 years old. “My decision was to drive that car that night and kill somebody. I want you to know what real life is like,” he said.

The presentation by Contois was part of the final assembly. The first part of the Every 15 Minutes program occurred on April 27, when students were removed from classes as part of the “living dead” and obituaries written by their parents were read to their classmates. Other students were part of the mock car crash on the afternoon of April 27. Police, fire fighters and paramedics responded to the mock crash. The living dead and those involved in the mock car crash were separated from family and friends overnight as part of a retreat. 

One exercise the students did during the retreat was to write letters to their parents that began with the phrase, “Today I died in an alcohol-related accident and never got the chance to tell you…” Their parents also wrote letters to their children. 

Officer Scott Kostohryz with the Moorhead Police Department introduced the April 28 assembly, staged as a mock memorial service for the mock car crash victim. 

He explained that Every 15 Minutes was developed in the mid-1990s, and at the time every 15 minutes someone died in an alcohol-related accident. Officer Kostohryz said this statistic has improved to one death from an alcohol-related accident every 33 minutes. Three efforts to help reduce drinking and driving are stricter laws, increased enforcement and education programs, he said.

Students then viewed a video of the events leading up to and the aftermath of the mock car crash, including the ambulance ride, emergency room treatment and, for the drunk driver, being charged with criminal vehicular homicide, among other charges.

Following the video, two students and their parents shared letters during the morning assembly.  One student read to his parents, “I wish I would have told you one more ‘thank you.’ … I wish I would have said one more ‘I love you.’” 

Next Elizabeth Parrow-Hawkins shared several poems and her story with the students. Parrow-Hawkins lost her 21-year-old daughter Becky and husband Don when they were killed by a drunk driver in 1998. Two years earlier her son had been killed.

Contois took the stage after Parrow-Hawkins and shared the details of his story. While in prison he was able to attend college through correspondence courses. But things were different when he got out of prison. “It’s tough to make up for anything when no one will give you a chance,” he said.

Finding a job was difficult so he makes minimum wage cleaning dirty carpets in cars. 

“It is what is is. It’s life after you make a decision like this,” Contois said.

For more information about the Every 15 Minutes program visit http://www.every15minutes.com.