CARSTAIRS/DIDSBURY - Students from both Hugh Sutherland School in Carstairs and Didsbury High School recently saw a presentation from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada regarding the risks of impaired driving.
The program, which is called Over the Edge, is being delivered to grade 7-12 students across Canada.
The presentation features a film presentation which tells the story of 17-year-old Sam whose life is changed forever after a crash involved an impaired driver.
Brandon Radhay, MADD Canada school outreach field representative, gave the presentation and said it's an important message for the students.
"It's a two-part program basically," said Radhay. "We had a discussion portion where I went up and talked about what impaired driving is and went over different scenarios. For some kids they have a basic understanding. For others, the younger ones, they're usually just getting introduced to the idea of what impaired driving is."
Radhay said they spoke about four main substances – alcohol, cannabis, illegal substances and prescription medications – that impair driving ability.
"A lot of kids are surprised, for instance, that prescription medication can actually impair you," he said. "That's what we mainly educate them on - what impaired driving looks like and how different scenarios can look."
The second part is a film that is shown to the students that includes a dramatization of what impaired driving might look like, said Radhay.
"As well, in that film, we show three real-life stories," he said. "Those real-life stories give the students an idea of the realities of impaired driving; exactly how it affects very real people. They have an idea how it affects people in the community, people around them and the emotions and consequences after someone makes the choice to drive impaired."
Didsbury High School (DHS) family school wellness worker Andrea Caines, who oversees the Students against Drunk Driving (SADD) group at DHS, said the presentation was very well done.
"We've had MADD Canada come in pretty much every year for the last I'd say eight years," said Caines. "Every year they have a different movie that they produce about the dangers around drinking and driving and making those decisions."
Caines said the movie this year, Over the Edge, dealt with relationships and then the aftermath of a bad decision of getting into a vehicle after using drugs and alcohol.
"The films are always about different scenarios that kids might have whether it's someone making a good choice of walking home versus someone getting into the vehicle with someone driving while impaired," she said. "It's always around those lines. After the film they usually have three real-life stories."
Caines said the presentation was emotional for many students.
"There were actually some students who left," she said. "They sat outside. It was triggering for them. One girl, her sister was in an accident. She was OK but it was still tough. They talked about what you can do to be safe. Obviously, it's different being in the country than in the bigger cities where you have cabs and Uber."
Caines said in the rural areas people have to really plan ahead.
"You need to have a driver or be able to call your parents," she said. "If you see a drunk driver to call 9-1-1. They talked about things like that. I think it affected more kids this year."
DHS student Jaden Wonnacott is one of the students in the school's SADD program. Wonnacott said she found the MADD message very powerful.
"I thought the video spread a really good message about how impaired driving doesn't only affect your life and the people you hurt but also the families of the victims," said Wonnacott. "I noticed that during the video a lot of people started to cry. I don't know why they were crying, I didn't know their reasons for crying but I knew mine."
Wonnacott said there are many situations in the world that people have no control over; however, impaired driving isn't one of them. Wonnacott added that people, particularly young people, need to realize their actions have consequences.
"I personally feel that impaired driving is one of the things society tends to try to hide away and ignore because it's too hard to deal with," she said.
Wonnacott said that ignoring something because it's too hard to deal with or makes you uncomfortable does not make it go away.
"This video was very amazing and impactful," she said. "It showed how your life can change in an instant and how you can never be the same after something like this."