Every 15 Minutes

Rachel Elliott was one of the lead participants in Orland High School’s Every 15 Minutes program. Less than one year later she was killed in real life by a drunk driver while attending college in Southern California.

The Every 15 Minutes Program offers real-life experience without the real-life risks. This emotionally charged program, entitled Every 15 Minutes, is an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol. This powerful program will challenge students to think about drinking, personal safety, and the responsibility of making mature decisions when lives are involved.

During the first day events the “Grim Reaper” calls students who have been selected from a cross-section of the entire student body out of class. One student is removed from class every 15 minutes. A police officer will immediately enter the classroom to read an obituary which has been written by the “dead” student’s parent(s) – explaining the circumstances of their classmate’s demise and the contributions the student has made to the school and the community.

Every 15 Minutes – Orland High, 2007

Picture Courtesy of Every 15 Minutes

Every 15 Minutes someone in the US is killed or injured by a drunk driver.
Every 30 Minutes someone in the US is killed by a drunk driver.

Below is a speech was written by Rachel’s mother talking about 3 decades of tragedy.

Rules to Live By

by Jill Elliott
March 2008

I learned the importance of this rule up close and personal when I was only 18.

I was out with two of my best friends…

Paige Roark was a senior at Fallbroook High School, much like Rachel – active in the student body, smart, and truly fun to be with.

Teresa Motta was only 20, but owned and operated her own record store and deejayed at a dance club.

One night we were on the way home and, I was driving. We were hit from behind by a drunk driver who fled the scene.

Jill’s Car – 1984 / DUI “Hit and Run”

Inside of Jill’s car. She was the driver and the only survivor.

To make a long story short, Paige was pronounced dead at the scene and Teresa died on the way to the hospital.

Teresa Motta

Paige Roark

Although I was injured, I was completely conscious the whole time and basically walked away from the crash scene.

Jill Elliott, home from the hospital.

Both Paige and Teresa believed in God and knew Jesus as their Savior, but not me. That all changed for me about one year later, but that’s another story.

After fleeing the scene of the crash and exiting the freeway, Robert Scott Carlton, ran a red light and was pulled over by the police. Two hours after his arrest his blood alcohol was taken and registered .21, twice over the legal limit.

Robert Scott Carlton was 28 years old and a school teacher. That night he made a choice to drink and drive. With the help of MADD, he was sentenced for DUI and was the first person to receive the maximum penalty for vehicular manslaughter in San Diego county and the judge also stripped him of his teaching credentials.

This tragedy was life changing for me and now I understand more fully how devastating it was for the families of Paige and Teresa.

Having gone through this tragedy influenced my mothering of Rachel and Erik. I had to fight the fear of worrying about the day they started to drive.

To make matters even worse, in 1996, Rachel and Erik’s aunt Vanessa (Steve’s youngest sister) and her friend were killed in a non-alcohol related single car accident. At the time, Vanessa was living with us and had just graduated from high school only two weeks earlier. As you can imagine this was another devastating loss.

Fast forward to the spring of 2007, Rachel is ASB Vice President, working on her senior project, and applying to colleges. She comes home one day and asks Steve and I if she can participate in a very significant way in the Every 15 Minutes program – a program that teaches young people about the deadly effects of drinking and driving.

We agreed Rachel could participate, but felt sick about it. However, we knew Rachel was aware of the impact drinking and driving had on my life and it was Rachel’s way to show it mattered to her as well.

Rachel was in a mock crash scene staged in front of OHS and was one of the victims who died at the scene of a wreck caused by a drunk driver. The entire Every 15 Minutes experience was almost too much to bear for me and Steve, we took it very seriously and it really changed our perspective on things.

Later that spring Rachel was accepted at UCI and over the summer she moved southern California.

On Thursday morning, February 21, 2008 while I was on the phone with Steve explaining to him that Rachel had not come home the night before, just like it happened in the Every 15 Minutes program, a police car drove up to our house. While I was still on the phone with Steve, Police Chief Bob Pasero, our friend and church family member, said that our Rachel was gone.

Rachel was a good girl, she liked to follow rules, she did nothing wrong.

There is a 29 year old woman in Corona, CA though – who broke the rules and made a choice to drink and drive, and her choice has devastated our entire family and those who knew and loved Rachel.

The impact of the head-on collision caused by this drunk driver rendered our beautiful and intelligent daughter void of breath, life, and all viability.

Rachel had a bright future and many dreams, but Rachel has been robbed of everything, even her choice to be an organ donor.

There is a 29 year old woman in Corona, CA who gets to wake up every morning for the rest of her life knowing she made a choice to drink and drive and the consequence of her actions cost the life of another human being.

My deepest yearning is that no one in this building will have to live with being her, or being me.

It is a simple rule to live by and I beseech you…DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.

Rachel’s Aunt Lindsay Speaks at a Local Every 15 Minutes Program.

Corona Del Mar High, 
May 28, 2008

Hi my name is Lindsay.  First I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to tell my story.  This is the 2nd time I have talked in front of a group of people.  The first time was about 3 months ago at my niece Rachel’s memorial, so please bear with me.
I know you don’t know me, and you don’t know my niece Rachel but my goal is to make this seem as real as possible and to make this hit as close to home as I can.

At approximately 12am on Thursday, February 21st, 2008, 18 year old Rachel Elliott attempted to leave her friend’s house in Corona to head home to Irvine.  Her usually very reliable Honda Accord failed to start for about 15 minutes…..

At approximately 1230am, now on her way home, Rachel’s Honda was struck head on by a Chevy Tahoe driven by an extremely intoxicated 29-year-old female driving on the wrong side of the road.

Paramedics tried their hardest to keep Rachel’s very badly injured body alive for 3 hours, not because there was much hope for Rachel but because Rachel wanted to be an organ donor. She was pronounced dead at 3:30 AM.  Sadly, none of her organs were salvageable.  The head nurse Lucky assured us they did everything possible.  The drunk driver was uninjured, but arrested on scene.  She made bail that night and has been home ever since awaiting arraignment.

Friends of ours would ask me and my husband Brian why we would consider having our 18 year niece Rachel move in with us and if we knew what we were getting ourselves into.  When these same people met Rachel they understood why.  Everyone who met Rachel fell in love with her.  She was just the type of person that people wanted to know and to be around.  She was beautiful inside and out, compassionate and affectionate.  She loved her family and her friends and she especially loved life.

Rachel moved from Northern California to Irvine and in with us to attend her first year of college. She was accepted at UCI where she majored in Biology.  Rachel dreamed of becoming a forensic investigator.  Her favorite TV shows were Bones and CSI.  My brother (Rachel’s uncle) Lando was helping to pay for her tuition.  Rachel attending college was a family effort, but we would have done anything for her.  Rachel worked as a Nanny and for Mimi’s Café.  Rachel was very interested in politics and democracy and was excited about being able to vote for the first time in our upcoming presidential election.

Rachel did not like the idea of drinking because it causes people to lose control and she insisted on being the designated driver whenever she was around people who had been drinking.

Rachel graduated Orland High School with honors.  She was very active in her school as well as her community.  During her junior year, she was treasurer of the Associated Student Body and served as vice-president her senior year. She also represented Orland in 2006 at Girls’ State, where selected students visit Sacramento and learn about state government.  Almost a year before Rachel was killed she was involved in the Every 15 Minutes program.  She was one of the main organizers and played the part of an on the scene fatality in the drama ironically enough.  When my sister and brother-in-law received the Every 15 Minutes mock death notice from local authorities that Rachel had been killed by a drunk driver my sister Jill cried because of how real it felt, not knowing that almost a year later Orland police chief, Bob Pasero, a personal friend and mentor of Rachel’s would be visiting their home to deliver a real death notice. My sister Jill had already known all too well the effects of drunk driving.  When she was Rachel’s age her car was stuck on the 5 Freeway by a drunk driver, sent down an embankment and slammed into a tree.  Her 2 best friends Paige and Theresa were killed but she survived miraculously enough.  Jill thought she was immune to anything like this happening again.

The effects of one drunk driver killing one person are immeasurable.  Rachel was a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter, a niece, a friend, and a girlfriend.  Rachel was a young person who deserved to have the future she dreamed of and that she worked so hard for.  For the people who loved Rachel our lives will never be the same.  The pain will never go away.  And, for the single mother who killed Rachel her life will never be the same either, her child’s life and her family’s lives will always be tarnished.

Rachel was a daddy’s girl.  Her father Steve says that his identity as a father and husband has now been challenged.  He could not protect Rachel, and now he can not do anything to ease Jill’s suffering.  My sister will have to live her whole life knowing that all the sweat, tears, and love that went into raising and preparing her child for this world were all in vain.  That no matter how good Rachel was, someone else could make one stupid mistake and end her beautiful life just like that.  Rachel’s 17 year old brother Erik will have to live the rest of his life without the one person who was closest to him.  Our whole family deals with the loss of Rachel every day.  We have our own pain and sorrow but we also feel each others.  We cry every day for ourselves, each other and for Rachel.  There are so many things she will never get to experience in life.  Just to name a few:  She will never get married, never have a family and she will never have the career she dreamed of.

I realize that people die tragically every day; it’s just that it’s so unbearably frustrating when a senseless death can be prevented so easily.  All you have to do is not drink and drive, it’s that simple.  If one positive thing could come out of Rachel’s death our family would hope that it would be that people think about her before they decide to drink and drive.

I’m going to play a short slideshow for you now, but before I do I wanted to see if anyone had any questions I might be able to answer.

The song accompanying the slide show was written for and performed at Rachel’s memorial by Curtis and Christopher Wilson.  You will also here a few seconds of her singing at the end.

Thank you very much for listening (and watching)  One last thing I want to mention is thatwww.rachelelliott.orghas been setup in Rachel’s honor but it is also a good resource for drunk driving news, updates, laws and other victims stories.  Please visit her site if you have a chance.