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Chilliwack students learn the damages of drunk driving

Impaired driving destroys hearts, minds, families and lives – that was the message Chilliwack students at three middle schools heard last week.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) presented Damages, a 45-minute fictional video showcasing the effects of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, to students at Rosedale traditional, Chilliwack middle and Vedder middle.

The audiences had students between the ages of 12 and 15 – not yet driving age.

"Eventually these kids are going to be driving," said Jason Kliiger of MADD Canada. "It's good to let them know before they get behind the wheel how important the decisions they make are – the earlier we get to them the better."

The No. 1 cause of death for youth between the ages of 16 and 25 is road crashes. Of that, 45 per cent of those deaths are due to impaired driving.

MADD Canada hopes the film will encourage young people to think more about making safer choices.

Damages centres around Jesse Miller, a teenager who had been accepted into law school for the next year, but who made a decision that not only destroyed his life, but the lives of many others.

After a night of drinking and smoking marijuana, he got behind the wheel of his dad's car. His girlfriend was in the front seat with him, his best friend and younger sister were in the backseat. No one was wearing a seatbelt.

Not long into the drive, Jesse lost control of the car, smashing into a parked vehicle. His girlfriend required a neck brace, his best friend was sentenced to a wheelchair, and his sister, who had been ejected from the car, was dead on impact.

"The characters are fictional, but the scenarios are all too real," said MADD Canada president Denise Dubyk in a press release.

"We want to reinforce the messages about never driving impaired, or accepting a ride from someone who is impaired. We want them to understand that it is never worth the risk."

Real victim testimonials were also aired following the film.

A mother, who lost her teenaged daughter four years ago at the hands of an impaired driver, sobbed  as she recounted the last time she saw her – in a body bag, in the morgue.

"I didn't want to let her go," she said. "They took her away and I never saw her again. They brought ashes back and said this is my daughter. I want her back."

A 15-year-old girl told the story of the night a drunk driver crashed head on into her parent's vehicle. With her and her brother in the backseat, she remembers beating on the window trying to get out; a large bone sticking out of her brother's pant leg; and her parents laying motionless in the front seat, wedged into the engine.

"That was the last time I kissed my mom," she said. "Living without my parents is absolutely terrifying. It's not fair. I should still have a childhood, but I don't."

The film concluded with the statement: Damages last forever.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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