Global News
January 17, 2018

Grade 8 students at Bliss Carman Middle School in Fredericton were delivered a sobering message about the dangers of impaired driving on Wednesday.

Representatives from MADD Canada, NB Liquor and Allstate Insurance were in attendance and spoke before showing a screening of MADD’s School Assembly Program video: ‘The Pact.’

The 45-minute video shows students the dangers and consequences of impaired driving, whether by drugs or alcohol. In the video, a group of friends is devastated by an impaired-driving crash that claims the life of their friend.

Following her death, the students vow to never drive drunk or high. The film also includes an interview with real-life victims and survivors of impaired-driving crashes.

Bliss Carman student Jagger Rideout said it made him sad to hear about families impacted by the loss of a loved one, caused by an impaired driver.

“What stood out to me most is that they sort of made me feel comfortable about talking, like they made me think that it’s good to talk to my parents or somebody else, my friends, if they’re drunk or high and they want to go driving because before, I was sort of uncomfortable if I was to say, ‘Don’t get in the car,’ or ‘I don’t want to get in the car,’ or anything like that,” Rideout said

Heidi Davidson also spoke with Global News following the presentation.

She said she would never think about getting behind the wheel of a car drunk, but said she’s glad she saw the video.

“I thought it’s a good thing for a lot of people to see,” Davidson said. “I was feeling really sad and I was sort of imagining how I would feel if I was one of the people. I wouldn’t feel very good. I would be really upset and I just probably wouldn’t be able to deal with it very well.”

Davidson said it also reinforced that you should never get in the car with another driver who has been drinking or doing drugs.

Student Kailyn Fequet-Sampson said she saw a similar presentation last year, but said every time she sees it, it takes her by surprise.

“I have an older brother too and he’s been doing the whole party stuff. He’s in university now so it’s weird to think that whole situation could be him and any of his friends,” Fequet-Sampson said.

She said her parents have always reinforced the message that it’s not OK to drink and drive. Fequet-Sampson said the presentation really put that message into perspective.

Fequet-Sampson said she’s going to go home and talk about the video with her brother to reinforce the idea that no one should ever get in a car with someone who is impaired.

MADD Canada president Patricia Hynes-Coates shared her personal story of loss with students, talking about the death of her stepson Nicholas Coates who was killed by an impaired driver on August 16, 2013.

“We want the students to start a dialogue,” Hynes-Coates said. “With themselves, with their peers, with their parents about the dangers of impaired driving. We want them to realize that nobody’s immune.”

She said if it happened to her family, it can happen to anyone.

She said her hope is that by sharing her stepson’s story and the stories of other families who have lost loved ones, that people will realize that it could happen to them. She hopes it will make people stop and think, and make the right choices.

Hynes-Coates said the program is effective in getting out the message. She said there are 56 presentations at schools in New Brunswick this year, and said they present to more than a million students across the country.

Marijuana front and centre in presentation

This year’s video showed students drinking and smoking marijuana, with the impaired driver under the influence of cannabis when he runs a red light, leading to the death of his friend.

“The legalization of marijuana, of course, we all know is pending here in Canada so yes, we wanted the message to get out there that impaired driving is not just alcohol, it’s drugs as well,” Hynes-Coates said.

“Unfortunately, if you look at our statistics, our youth really believe that they would never drive while they’re drunk, but it’s OK to have a few puffs of marijuana and we need them to realize that that is just as serious as drinking and driving, and we want them to make sure that they don’t do that,” Hynes-Coates said.

Vice-principal Chantale Cloutier said she was pleased to see marijuana included in the presentation.

“I feel that it was great that there was the aspect of drugs involved in this, that not only should you not be driving under the influence of alcohol, but as well, under the influence of drugs,” Cloutier said.