SmartWheels is an elementary school program developed for students in grades 4 to 6 to educate them about the harmful risks associated with alcohol, drug use and impaired driving. The SmartWheels program is delivered by a MADD Canada Facilitator in a modern, leading-edge and fully equipped mobile classroom.
Impactful, on-the-go and self-contained, this mobile classroom is inspiring and empowering young people to make a difference and to be the generation that chooses not to drive impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The retrofitted recreational vehicle has been specially outfitted with a large projector screen with surround sound, individual virtual reality (VR) goggles and tablets for each student.
The mobile classroom visits elementary schools in Ontario and welcomes between 150-200 students each day. Students participate in an interactive presentation about the risks of experimenting with alcohol and/or drugs and how they can avoid becoming passengers in vehicles with impaired drivers. They use the tablets to answer multiple choice questions about impaired driving and the VR goggles to experience what it is like to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs.
They watch on-screen video-hosts introduce them to Dylan Krill. Dylan and his best friends Mason Bérubé and Devon Tinus were 12 years old and usually inseparable. One night in 2009 the three friends attended a London Knights hockey game together. Dylan went home and shortly afterwards, the vehicle his friends were in was hit by an impaired driver. The following morning, Dylan was devastated to learn that both his friends were killed and Mason’s dad was seriously injured. Dylan shares how that profound loss has impacted his life forever.
Teachers are given pre- and post-presentation materials to initiate and continue the conversation. Click here to download a copy of the SmartWheels Educators’ Guide.
The mobile classroom began operating in Ontario in the Fall of 2017. MADD Canada hopes to expand the program in other provinces in the future.
Watch CTV Toronto clip about SmartWheels
CTV Toronto, November 24, 2017
- Increase awareness among students in grades 4 through 6 to the dangers of drinking alcohol and taking drugs;
- Increase awareness among young people about the tragic consequences of impaired driving;
- Educate students about the dangers of being a passenger in a vehicle driven by an impaired driver and provide them with safety strategies;
- Empower children to trust their instincts and to not give in to peer pressure;
- Reduce the incidences of impaired driving among youth by changing attitudes and behaviours about alcohol and drugs well before youth can actually drive.
The educators’ guide has 2 in-school pre-visit lessons where the teacher can introduce their students to the concepts delivered through the RV Experience. The educators’ guide also has 2 in-school post-visit lessons where the teacher can help students consolidate their learning, by facilitating meaningful discussions including answering any questions they may have.
Many studies state that one of the most consistent and robust factors associated with future substance problems is early initiation of the use.
In a 2015 survey, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found that the use of alcohol and cannabis starts as early as age 11 and that use increases steadily between grades 7 and 9. The survey also found that 14% of 7th graders tried alcohol before the end of grade 6 and 17% tried cannabis for the first time in the past 12 months, validating that this program’s target of grades 4-6 is the ideal time to educate students before they are faced with making decisions about alcohol and drugs.
This is further supported by studies which show that youth who drink alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependency than those who wait until age 21². The CAMH survey recommends there is a need for programs that focus on reducing alcohol/drug use among youth and that prevention efforts should target young people’s beliefs and attitudes about drugs, specifically the risks of physical harms that can occur from use. These recommendations directly align with the key objectives of SmartWheels.
Although students are not yet driving or may not yet be experimenting with alcohol or drugs, we know that educating students at a young age helps them develop the necessary skills required to make important decisions when the time comes. Some students may already be exposed to being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone (even a parent) who is impaired or have been in situations where they were around drugs and alcohol. We want these students to know their options before they are faced with actually making the choice to drive impaired or get in a vehicle with someone who is impaired. Our program guides them and gives them the tools that will prepare them for making smart and responsible choices before they enter high school.
2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health survey, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
² 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Center for Behavioural Health Statistics and Quality