What can happen when you cross the “stupid line”? When you take an unnecessary risk?

Anything. Anything can happen – even bad things. And they can happen to you.

The eyes of students in Watrous were recently opened to this possibility, thanks to a locally-run program focused on helping teens make better choices.

On September 23, the Watrous and District Ambulance and the Saskatchewan Central Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) outreach team held a Preventing Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program for 65 young drivers in Grades 10 and 11 from Winston High School in Watrous.

The PARTY program is a dynamic and interactive program for teens meant to promote smart choices and safe risks. The hands-on aspect of the program combined with the involvement of health care, emergency and law enforcement personnel is meant to connect with youth about the consequences of risk-taking behaviours like drinking and driving, and bring home the fact that bad things can and do happen to young people who “cross the stupid line”, as the program states.

PARTY program day in Watrous began with a mock crash between a single vehicle and a power pole. It was a powerful scene – the vehicle pinned up against the pole, a bleeding victim hanging out the passenger-side window, another blood-soaked victim in the back seat.

A firefighter removes the door from the crashed vehicle during the mock collision.

A mock collision set the stage for a day of learning about the consequences of risky behaviours through the Preventing Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program held in Watrous September 23.

 

 

Firefighters and paramedics help a victim.

Firefighters and paramedics work on the victim in the back seat of the car during the mock collision.

A crowd watches firefighters and paramedics gathered around a victim.

Students watch as a victim is removed from the vehicle on a stretcher during the mock collision.

A young man is placed on a spineboard by firefighters and paramedics.

A spineboard was used to remove one of the mock victims from the vehicle without damaging his spine. Firefighters and paramedics both help move him onto a gurney.

A police officer questions a woman seated on the ground.

The drunk driver for the mock collision is questioned by RCMP.

Mock collisions are held as part of the PARTY program to demonstrate exactly what paramedics, firefighters and police officers do when they are called to a major collision. The students in Watrous watched as firefighters removed a door from the vehicle, and a victims suffering from very authentic-looking injuries was extricated and loaded into an ambulance. They also watched as the drunk driver was questioned and arrested by police.

After the mock collision, the program moved to the hospital, where students listened to a presentation in the emergency room, then went through a rehabilitation physiotherapy session, something that those severely injured in collisions often have to do to learn how to do things like brush their teeth, or walk with assistance.

Students eat lunch blindfolded.

Students involved in the PARTY program eat lunch while blindfolded, part of the program’s disability lunch.

Students had a chance to interact with paramedics and firefighters, learning about what they do, and even getting a chance to don some firefighting gear before they headed to the Watrous Civic Centre to eat a special lunch donated by the local Kinettes.

The lunch was made special not by what was served, but in how the students ate it. Each was given a scenario and props, and had to get and eat their lunch while dealing with a disability. For instance, one student was told that he had been involved in a winter rollover and had lost his finger to frostbite. That student had to eat lunch without using his fingers, his fisted hands covered by socks.

Organizers didn’t make it easy on the students, explained Mila Herauf of Watrous and District Ambulance.  Some students were blind, others had amputated limbs or other disabilities that they were told they had attained doing some sort of risky behaviour.  Some had to team up in order to get their lunch; others had to find people to help them eat it.

After lunch, the RCMP gave a graphic presentation about what happens when risky behaviour results in tragedy. They showed photos and videos from actual crash scenes, and described what happened in each.

“It was really good,” said Herauf. “To get through to this generation, you need to show the real thing, what has actually happened when people take stupid risks.”

A session with Saskatoon Health Region’s Addictions team was followed by a hard-hitting speech by Nolan Barnes, a 23-year-old paraplegic from Saskatoon who was involved in a crash when he was only 19.

Barnes spoke about his life before the crash that changed his life – how he was into drugs and alcohol and headed down the wrong path. He then focused on his life since the crash – he’s now an athlete, competing in waterskiing events and winning medals.

“It was a really good eyeopener for kids,” said Herauf. “He definitely had an impact. It was pretty quiet while he was talking.”

PARTY programs are run all over Saskatchewan and Canada, as well as the United States, Australia, Japan, Germany and Brazil. It has been able to reach several thousands of students with its message: “Drive Sober, Wear the Gear, Look First, Buckle Up, and Get Trained.” The response from students, teachers, parents, police, emergency and health care professionals involved in the program has been extremely positive and the impact is evident from completed feedback pre/post test data.