The tragedy of impaired driving hit home on Tuesday for River Glen and Hunting Hills high school students during screenings of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s new movie.
The 42-minute film Long Weekend is part of MADD’s new national awareness campaign.
The film features families talking in detail about the deaths of loved ones. Among them are family members of Brad and Krista Howe, a Red Deer couple killed in 2010 by convicted drunk driver Chad Mitchell Olsen. Krista’s sister Karla and two of the couple’s children, MacKenzie and Cory, speak about the deadly collision’s aftermath.
“You’re just in such oblivion. I miss them all the time,” recounts MacKenzie, who then breaks into tears.
The sister of Ontario 16-year-old Katelynn Porter tells of how a good friend who’d been drinking lost control of the truck her sister rode in.
“You don’t think someone from your core friend group is going to hurt you. You’re not supposed to see your sister in her coffin.”
Such statements’ emotional impact, coupled with jarring collision scene photos and a fictional story of a drunk teen who causes a collision, crippling his girlfriend and killing himself and another driver, are designed to show teens the consequences of impaired driving.
“Your choices can change the world around you,” explained Denise Dubyk, MADD’s national president, to the River Glen students. “You can contribute to the change of stopping impaired driving.”
The Calgary woman, who lost her son-in-law to an impaired driver, said more than a million youth in Grades 7 to 12 will see Long Weekend. She stressed how the movie deals with the subject of choice.
“These are not accidents. Someone chooses to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Blake Reichert of Allstate Insurance, a national sponsor of MADD for nearly 25 years, echoed Dubyk.
“We sincerely believe in what this film will do for teens and help them to make good decisions.”
The message got through to Aleisha Yews.
“I couldn’t myself think of even going through that,” said the 16-year-old River Glen student.
“If you’ve been drinking, never get behind the wheel yourself. Don’t let your friends do it. Do everything you can to stop it.”
For some students, the film’s impact was so great that they sought out Dubyk after for meaningful, though brief, counselling. She said the loss of a family member from impaired driving lasts a lifetime.
“Nothing in life will ever train you for that grief and devastation. To never have said goodbye or to say hello again is tragic.”