Collision scenario drives impaired driving message home

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MCHS held a collision scenario to illustrate the consequences of impaired driving June 4. The scenario was made possible with the assistance of Morinvile Peace Officers, RCMP members, firefighters and paramedics. – Stephen Dafoe Photos

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – High school students were given a real-time demonstration of the dangers of drinking and driving Tuesday afternoon. Sirens screamed through the streets behind Morinville Community High School (MCHS) as police, paramedics and firefighters arrived at the scene of a two-vehicle collision that claimed the life of one teenager and sent three others to hospital with undisclosed injuries. One student actor was arrested at the scene and subsequently charged with impaired driving.

The only upside to Tuesday’s student tragedy is the fact the deceased took off the theatrical makeup and walked away, the injured students will returned to class uninjured, and the impaired student’s charge was purely for show.

With graduation ceremonies scheduled for later this month, MCHS decided to take the important message of the consequences of drinking and driving to graphic levels once again this year.

“By the age of 20, five of them may not be around because of alcohol-related accidents,” said MCHS Principal Todd Eistetter. “That’s a huge number. We’ve got 149 Grade 12s there. The potential for four or five of them in the next few years to die because of injuries sustained – that’s pretty significant.”

The school has chosen to take preventative measures by reinforcing the dangers of impaired driving prior to this year’s graduation ceremonies. In addition to the collision simulation and another presentation in the school gym, a coffin in the school’s entry acts as a visual reminder of the potential outcome of impaired driving.

“This is part of a process,” Eistetter said. “They have been hearing this [message] from so many different people, so many different organizations for a long time. It’s just something else that we can do to try and ensure that they do watch what’s going on around them, who they are around, [and] what’s happening to try and maintain some safety. It takes just a split second to make a bad decision. The results are catastrophic.”

Morinville Community Peace Officer MaryJo Webster organized this year’s collision scenario. She sees the initiative as an important one to put on prior to the school’s graduation ceremonies. “We just wanted the Grad students to see this to make better decisions and choose someone to be their designated driver,” she said, adding even one beer should be followed by someone else driving the student home.
Webster said the message might not hit everyone. She is banking on affecting just one student’s behaviour. “Even if I help one person or I change one person’s attitude, you’ve made a difference.”

Student’s impacted

collision2-webMCHS student Austin MacDonald played the role of the impaired driver in Tuesday’s mock collision. That role included being escorted from his vehicle by police, being given a roadside breathalyser test, and handcuffed for a ride in the back of a police car. Though in on the act from the beginning, the realism of the scenario made him think about himself and his fellow students.

“It’s pretty scary,” MacDonald said. “You realize how fast a life can be taken. It’s scary knowing it’s all in your hands. It frightens me to think someone would ever step into a vehicle when they are drunk or drinking at all.”

Fellow actor Heather Campbell played the role of one of the occupants in the vehicle struck by the impaired driver. Her role included being freed from the vehicle by firefighters who extracted her from the car on a traction board. It was an unsettling experience for Campbell.

“It was actually really nerve-racking because I didn’t know if they would hit my legs with any of the equipment they had,” Campbell said, adding the noises of the extraction gear and bending car frame shocked her but were not as loud as she imagined they would be. “It was really weird having a blanket over me and then being strapped to the board.

Like MacDonald, the experience made her reflect on the subject. “It made me pretty sure that I don’t want to drink and drive,” she said.

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Although police, emergency medical services and Morinville firefighters acted as they would in a real collision, Captain Joel Houle of the Morinville Fire Department said everyone would have moved a little quicker in real life.

“When you go to the real collisions there is more of a sense of urgency to get the patients out because it is more the unexpected,” Houle explained. “This was planned before – so we had the opportunity to look at the cars and see what we wanted to do. But in real life we go there and make our plans as we go. There’s a lot more sense of urgency and injuries can vary from being very minor to fatal.”

Having attended many vehicle collision calls as a first responder, Houle cautioned students and the public to take actions to prevent the department from getting the call. “Be responsible, please,” he said. “Think of your family members and your friends. If you are going out to have drinks, that’s fine. Make sure you have arrangements to get back home. If it’s calling your parents or calling friends, make sure you have arrangements made. We don’t want to see people dying on our highways like they are because of impaired driving. In this day and age there are a lot of means to get home.

Morinville Community High School has 149 students graduating this year. Graduation ceremonies are set to take place June 21.

Above Left: Drama student Austin MacDonald sits in the back of a police car, reflecting on his actions.

Above: Drama student Jordan Lane sits injured while firefighters extract his passenger from the vehicle.

Photo Gallery

Below is a video of our pictorial coverage of Tuesday’s mock collision scenario.

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