MADD Canada

November 22, 2017 11:30 ET

MADD Canada's New Mobile Classroom Teaches Elementary Students about Risks of Alcohol, Drugs and Driving

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - November 22, 2017) - MADD Canada's education program for elementary students is going mobile with SmartWheels, a specially-outfitted recreational vehicle (RV) that will visit elementary schools around the province to educate students about the risks associated with alcohol, drugs and driving.

SmartWheels is a 42-foot RV with a large projection screen, individual tablets and virtual reality goggles, providing a fully interactive experience for students in Grades 4 - 6. Students learn about the risks of drinking alcohol and taking drugs, the tragic consequences of impaired driving, and the dangers of being a passenger in a car driven by an impaired driver. The RV seats up to 32 students at a time and can accommodate 5 - 6 classrooms, or 150 - 200 students, each day.

"We are very excited to take our education program for elementary students to this unique and dynamic new level," said MADD Canada National President Patricia Hynes-Coates. "SmartWheels educates young students about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and driving before they face making choices about those things. Our mobile classroom will inspire young people to make a difference and be the generation that chooses not to drive impaired."

The travelling classroom is being officially launched today with a visit to students at Second Street Junior Middle School in Etobicoke. Joining MADD Canada for the special event are: Ontario Minister of Transportation, The Honourable Steven Del Duca; Jennifer Bell, LCBO Executive Director, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility; and Karyn Toon, Director Corporate Relations, Allstate Insurance Company of Canada.

"Educating our youth about the risks of impaired driving, and encouraging and empowering them to make responsible choices, helps establish a foundation for safe and sober driving in the future," said The Honourable Steven Del Duca, Ontario Minister of Transportation. "The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is proud to partner with MADD Canada on this innovative new effort to educate and protect some of the youngest and most vulnerable people on our roads."

The SmartWheels presentation was developed by educators with expertise in curriculum development at the elementary school level. It features videos about the effects of alcohol and cannabis on developing brains and bodies, and on driving abilities. Students use individual tablets to respond to multiple-choice questions about the material and participate in three "choose your own adventure" decision-making scenarios about impaired driving. The outcome of the stories depend on the students' answers to questions.

During the presentation, students put on their virtual reality goggles and see how it looks and feels to drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol. They also see the personal story of one young victim of impaired driving, who lost two of his best friends in an impaired driving crash when the kids were all about 12-years-old.

A specially-trained MADD Canada representative guides the presentation and helps students through the process. All participating schools are provided with a comprehensive Educators' Guide to facilitate pre and post presentation discussion about the material presented and the risks of alcohol and drug use.

Impaired driving takes a disproportionate toll among young Canadians: traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among 16-25 year olds with approximately 55% of crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs. Further, studies show that the use of alcohol and cannabis starts as early as age 11 and that use increases steadily between grades 7 and 9. MADD Canada has created the SmartWheels program to reach youth and educate them about the harms associated with alcohol and drug use before they are at risk.

SmartWheels is being piloted this year in Ontario, where it will reach about 25,000 elementary students between now and the end of the school year. With the support of sponsors and community partners, the SmartWheels program will be provided at no cost to the schools. MADD Canada plans to expand the program to other provinces and create a French version of the program in the future.

The SmartWheels project has been made possible with generous support from the LCBO, its staff and customers. Each December, as part of its annual Giving Back In Our Community campaign, LCBO raises funds for MADD Canada through prompted donations at their cash registers and through our Project Red Ribbon coin box displays on their checkout counters. Last year, the campaign raised $2.4 million in support of MADD Canada's School Assembly Program which focuses on Grades 7 - 12, and the new SmartWheels program for elementary students.

"LCBO staff and customers are tremendously supportive of MADD Canada's School Assembly Program and we are proud of the impact it has had in helping more than half a million students every year understand the dangers and consequences of impaired driving," said Jennifer Bell, Executive Director, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility. "By beginning the education process even earlier, SmartWheels will be powerful in promoting a new level of awareness and safety among young people in communities across the province."

SmartWheels builds upon MADD Canada's previous educational programming for elementary students, adding custom content, innovative technology and unique learning opportunities in a fully interactive format. It also complements the School Assembly Program, MADD Canada's largest youth education program, which delivers education and awareness to approximately one million students in Grades 7 - 12 each year. MADD Canada can now provide powerful and ongoing education about the risks and consequences of alcohol, drugs and impaired driving to students from Grade 4 all the way through to Grade 12.

The SmartWheels program is generously supported by Organizational Sponsors: the LCBO, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Allstate Insurance Company of Canada, and In-Kind Sponsor: Overdrive (Design) Limited.

"This is a unique and interactive way to engage students at a young age, through a medium that resonates with them," says Ryan Michel, President and CEO, Allstate Insurance Company of Canada. "We are proud to be a part of yet another one of MADD Canada's impactful initiatives."

In addition to visiting elementary schools, SmartWheels will visit local communities for festivals, LCBO stores, Canada Day events and other local activities. Such events will provide opportunities to engage with adults and parents, helping to further increase awareness of the risks associated with alcohol, drugs and impaired driving.

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