Grim Reaper

Grim Reaper Day (also often called Ghost Out Day or White Out Day) is a traditional activity for SADD chapters, dating back to the earliest days of the organization. But today research shows such "scare tactics” have only a very brief and limited impact on behavior. Grim Reaper days do have some other benefits – they are high-visibility within the school, helping call attention to the chapter, and the media likes the dramatic visuals, so it’s often easy to get good media coverage, which can lead to donations and other relationships with the community at large.

Because the impact of Grim Reaper Day is brief – no more than a day or two of behavior change can be shown in research studies – it’s important that if you do choose to do this activity, you do it as close as possible to a high-risk time for impaired driving and underage drinking, such as prom or homecoming. The issues of underage drinking and impaired driving should be approached with a comprehensive education and prevention plan, of which Grim Reaper Day should be one small part. SADD offers other evidence-based programs that are more likely to lead to behavior change.

What to Do

  1. Select a "grim reaper" for the day. (When planning your day, don’t forget to receive permission from your principal and notify teachers of what will be taking place.) Dress him/her in all black and paint the face white. Blacken the eye sockets with black face paint.
  2. Every 53 minutes, a gong will sound over the PA system and the grim reaper will enter a classroom and pull a selected student from the class. Each victim’s face will be painted white and have one teardrop outlined on his/her face. The victims will be "dead" for the rest of the day and cannot speak to anyone.
  3. Make a placard for each victim that says something like "I died at 10:08" or "I’m just a memory now." You may also give the victims death certificates and obituaries describing the impaired driving crash that killed them.
  4. All of the "dead" should sit together at lunch, not speaking to anyone.
  5. Display a coffin in the cafeteria with a mirror placed inside so that when students look in the coffin they will see themselves.
  6. When school lets out, the victims lie side by side on the campus grounds – rows of bodies covered with white sheets.
  7. Have posters, fliers, and/or pamphlets ready to hand out to students to explain the dangers of driving while impaired and to explain the "Grim Reaper Day" event.

If this dramatization is too elaborate or difficult to arrange in your school, you may choose to do this modified version.

Back to top

Back to Campaigns & Activities List