Every choice you make matters

High Prairie RCMP Const. Nicholas Petruic, left, issues a roadside test to a potential drunk driver, played by E.W. Pratt High School student Amara Drefs. She was later arrested.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Junior high school students in the High Prairie region learned lessons about impacts of drinking and driving during the annual Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth program in High Prairie on May 9.

Directed to Grade 9 students, PARTY was presented to Prairie River Junior High School and St. Andrew’s School in High Prairie, Grouard Northland School and Kinuso School at the Gordon Buchanan Recreational Centre.

“The PARTY program aims to reduce death and injury in alcohol, drug and risk-related crashes and incidents,” says Jenny-Leigh Solomon, PARTY program co-ordinator and High Prairie health promotions facilitator for Alberta Health Services.

“By participating in the workshop, youth learn how to recognize risk, manage risk, and make smart choices.”

Students witnessed a mock collision to start the event.

Lakeshore Regional Police Service Const. Rob Rittner explained the response procedures to the youth.

“If we go out to a rural area, sometimes people die before we get there,” Rittner says.

“It would take hours.”

Police may have to travel one hour or more to get to a scene, he notes.

High Prairie RCMP Const. Mitch Price emphasizes the long wait that could occur for victims in a vehicle.

“Think of you in there for about an hour-and-a-half,” Price says.

“You’re sitting in the vehicle with dead and injured friends or family.

“Reality is you’re going to be sitting there for a long time.”

Students also heard another message from High Prairie Fire Department fire chief Ken Melnyk.

“The next time you get into a vehicle, whether you or the driver are impaired by drinking or drugs, think about what you saw and heard today,” Melnyk says.

“Collisions are also becoming more common because of texting and driving.”

One firefighter says collisions caused by impaired driving are not to be taken lightly.

“This is a serious matter, this is not funny,” Capt. Brandon Letendre says.

Guest speaker Amanda Oling again shared the tragic story of her 55-year-old father, who was burned beyond recognition in a head-on collision with a 19-year-old man who was impaired in a stolen welding truck in 2004. Her father was killed in the collision on Highway 22 about 10 km north of Drayton Valley.

“This kind of conduct is unacceptable in our society,” says Oling, who was a police officer with the Calgary Police Service at the time.

A bad decision by a teen driver affected more than himself, she says.

“It cost him and his family everything,” Oling says.

“It cost me and my family everything.

“How will it affect you and your family?”

“The Impact of One Decision” aptly is the title of her 50-minute presentation.

“Don’t put someone else through the same tragedy I experienced,” Oling says.

“The biggest excuse I hear is that it only hurts myself,” Oling says.

“Every decision you make affects other people.”

She and her family found that out for real in a harsh way.

“You don’t think about until it happens to you,” Oling says.

“It’s 100 per cent preventable if people make right decisions.”

She advises youth and others that drugs and alcohol is not the answer to solve life’s problems.

“If you’re dealing with an issue, never turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to escape,” Oling says.

“You are always loved by someone, live a life that matters.”

Students also learned a wide variety of information and effects of drugs and alcohol.

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