Two cars entangled, smashed windshields and scattered glass all over the road, a power pole leaning across the accident scene, lines dangling and occupants of the accident still inside the mangled vehicles. The RCMP arrives, along with EMS and firefighters, complete with the Jaws of Life to extricate the victims from vehicles.
This is what an entire class of grade 10 students in Olds and Bowden, Alberta witness on a yearly basis. The program is titled “Party Safe” and starts with a mock accident, then continues with a day-long event aimed at helping youth see the outcome of a poor decision or a high-risk behaviour.
For the past 7 years, Olds High School, along with community partners Olds Fire Department, Olds RCMP, Olds Hospital, EMS, Victim Services, Heartland Funeral Services, The Town of Olds, and many volunteers, work to create a day of learning that students take to heart and do not forget. Over 90 volunteers come together to educate young people on the dangers of drinking/drugs/texting while driving and engaging in high-risk behaviours.
For the past 4 years, funding for this program has come from the Alberta Traffic Safety Fund. Coordinated by a parent volunteer, Lana Cissell, and Guidance Counselor Louan Statchuk from the Olds High School, this unique teaching opportunity brings the entire community of Olds together. “Everyone jumped at becoming involved,” said Cissell. “It’s so valuable to be on the preventative side of an accident, rather than the other side.”
It’s so valuable to be on the preventative side of an accident, rather than the other side.
- Lana Cissell
Although not real, the mock accident is chilling and involves recognizable students as the victims. An RCMP member attends the scene, explaining in detail what is occurring moment by moment. A drunk driver is cuffed and taken away in a police car, another is taken to the morgue. Following this, students are toured through a variety of stations. In the trauma room of the nearby hospital, volunteer nurses and doctors run the two injured patients through the emergency room. One succumbs to his injuries and another has a spinal injury, resulting in permanent paralysis. Physiotherapists work with students to help them understand the challenges of being permanently incapacitated and paramedics share the realities of trying to save a life and personal stories of loss. RCMP members speak very frankly about the laws around personal liability and share deep personal experiences with the kids, hoping they will learn from these stories. Finally, students are toured through a funeral home, where they understand not all choices result in second chances. A lunch is followed by a guest speaker who has experienced a personal tragedy related to a poor choice.
This program also supports a guest speaker that delivers a poignant message to the grade 12 students of Olds just before the May long weekend, a time of year known for heightened accidents. Students hear about a devastating loss due to drinking and driving.
“Previous to receiving the Alberta Traffic Safety Grant, we put a lot of time and energy into canvassing our community for the adequate funding,” says Cissell. “Every year it was a struggle and some years we were not able to cover costs. We are so grateful for the support and the difference it makes to our kids and our community.”