- Rural students set to learn about dangers of impaired and distracted driving
Alberta Health Services
Students in southwestern Alberta are gearing up to learn about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving, and how good decisions can help prevent injuries.
Over the next three months, about 300 students from the Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod, Taber and Crowsnest Pass areas will join health professionals, police officers, paramedics and injury survivors at hospitals and community events as part of Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program.
“Youth living in rural communities spend more time travelling on Alberta roads for school and other social and recreational activities than youth in urban centres,” says Dr. Lena Derie-Gillespie, Medical Officer of Health for AHS South Zone. “They are also more likely to engage in activities, such as riding ATVs, dirt bikes or horses which, although fun, can result in serious injury that affects individuals, families and entire communities.”
Through interactive, hands-on activities — including mock collisions — students learn about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, texting while driving, not wearing a seatbelt and speeding; and the consequences of bad decisions, such as not wearing the appropriate protective gear, like helmets, for sporting and leisure activities.
“Giving students a first-hand look at the potential costs of their choices empowers them to make better decisions,” says Tara Tanner, Acting Principal, Matthew Halton High School, Pincher Creek. “At this young age, teenagers sometimes believe they’re invincible. By partnering with other community members, we’re better able to educate students about ‘smart risks’ and healthy choices.”
Motor vehicle collisions remain one of the leading causes of injury, hospitalization and death among youth. Distracted driving reduces awareness, decision-making and performance, leading to increased risk of driver error and collisions.
Research indicates about one-quarter of all collisions are the result of driver distraction. Distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in collisions. Since distracted driving legislation was introduced five years ago, there have been more than 87,000 convictions and almost all of those were for using a hand-held electronic device while driving.
“Learning to make smart choices teaches young people that most injuries are preventable and avoidable,” says Dr. Derie-Gillespie. “Plan ahead to limit your risks and stay safe.”
The PARTY program began in 1986 at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Centre. It was created by a local registered nurse and mother of four daughters, who was living in Port Perry, Ont., where a number of local teens had been seriously injured or killed because of motor vehicle collisions. She and the local hospital administration began inviting teens to the hospital to visit a number of departments, including the trauma room, critical care and rehabilitation wards.
The program continues to grow and expand. It is available in 24 locations in Alberta and 100 sites throughout Canada, the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Japan and Germany.
PARTY will take place in the following South Zone communities. These sessions are not open to the public:
- Pincher Creek – April 5, 12 and 20 (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
- Fort Macleod – May 17 (9 a.m. to 2:40 p.m./Mock collision - 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.)
- Taber – May 19 and 26 (9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m./Mock collision - 9:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.)
- Crowsnest Pass – June 2 (9 a.m. to 2:20 p.m./Mock collision - 9:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.)
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.