First, the facts: road crashes kill more 16 to 25-year-old Canadians than anything else. And alcohol and drugs are a factor in more than half of those crashes.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada is dedicated to lowering the number of alcohol-related crashes in the country. That can’t be done unless young drivers are taught to make the right choices from the start. To that end, MADD is offering a program in Ontario which takes the sober driving message to elementary schools: SmartWheels.
SmartWheels is a bus that houses a self-contained classroom complete with audio-visual equipment and devices for interactive media. The mobile classroom goes to schools in Ontario, where fourth and fifth graders participate in a 45-minute educational experience designed to get them thinking about making the right choice when pressured to drink and drive, or ride with a friend who is driving drunk.
The presentation includes a wide-screen HD video presentation about a boy, Dylan Krill, whose two best friends were killed by an impaired driver when they were 12 years old. Kids understand the value of friendship at that age, and Dylan’s profound story of loss makes a lot them think about the risks of drunk driving.
During the classroom experience the students also use tablets to answer questions about impaired driving, and discuss the answers as a group. They participate in “choose your own adventure” decision-making scenarios about impaired driving – invaluable preparation for what they’ll face in real life. They also get a chance to don VR “drunk” goggles to experience impairment virtually.
The goals of the SmartWheels program are:
- Increase awareness about alcohol, drugs and impaired driving among students in grades 4 through 6
- Help students understand the dangers of being a passenger in a vehicle driving by an impaired driver, and give them strategies to stay safe
- Empower kids to trust their instincts and not cave in to peer pressure
- Change students’ attitudes about alcohol and drugs before they start driving
During this school year SmartWheels is scheduled to visit a number of schools in Mississauga, Freelton, Brampton, Newmarket and Port Colborne, with new shows being booked all the time.
At some juncture most kids face the choice of whether or not to drink, and whether or not to drive after drinking, or ride with someone who is impaired. Peer pressure makes that choice a tough one, no matter how clear it might seem to adults, who have made it through the harrowing teenage years. MADD Canada and SmartWheels are there to see that all the teens in the country make it to adulthood, by persuading them to make the right choice at that vital time of life.