Kimberly and Ella understand why impaired driving is wrong and so do their grades 4 and 5 classmates at Connaught Heights elementary school.
Now they hope they can educate adults so they won’t drink and drive.
“I really want them to think about it—if they drink and drive they can hurt people,” said Kimberly, a Grade 5 student in Judy Jones’ class.
“Being responsible means don’t drink too much. Think about others,” added classmate Ella.
Students in Jones’ class and every elementary school student in the New Westminster school district were part of the Think of Me program, sponsored by the Liquor Distribution Branch.
Teachers talked to students about the problem of impaired driving and the importance of drinking responsibly. The students then decorated a B.C. Liquor Store paper bag with messages and drawings about what they’d learned.
More than 3,000 bags are now decorated and ready to be distributed in New Westminster’s two government liquor stores starting this weekend.
The goal is to get liquor-buying adults to think about the impact alcohol abuse can have on children after seeing the messages and drawings.
“Car keys, alcohol and being drunk do not mix,” wrote Isaiah, a Grade 5 student at Connaught.
Fellow student Quinn included a Christmas drawing with the message, “Don’t go on Santa’s naughty list because he checks it twice.”
Jones’ students believe the decorated bags will make a difference and adults will relate to their messages better than television, radio and print anti-drinking and driving commercials.
“I think it will, because people just skip the commercials and don’t listen to them,” said Trent.
“When people get the bag they will be more responsible because they’ll see it’s from kids,” said Simran.
“It will make more of a difference than if it were just a plain paper bag,” added Quinn.
The students came up with the messages and the slogans themselves, said Jones.
“I was surprised with what they already knew about the issue,” she said. “They’re getting to that age where they’re starting to understand all of this.”
New Westminster’s Think of Me program is not just aimed at adults, said Jones. It’s also educating students about why drinking responsibly is important.
The program will repeat annually so students hear the same message throughout their elementary school years.
“If you remember when mandatory seat belts first started coming in, it was year after year we heard that message,” said Dan Kalivoda, the district community schools coordinator who helped organize the program along with Connaught principal Chris Evans.
“Now, for our generation, it’s just automatic that we get in the car and put on our seatbelt. This will be the same way we hope,” he said.
“Hopefully at some point when these students get older they’ll reflect back on this,” said Evans. “We want them to remember how important this was. We want them to make good decisions when they get to high school.”
Impaired driving by the numbers
• An average of 133 people are killed and 3,400 injured each year in B.C. as a result of drunk driving, according to ICBC.
• New Westminster Police CounterAttack roadblocks, which began in late November, have issued an average of two immediate roadside prohibitions per night to impaired drivers.
• Lower Mainland RCMP have handed out 66 driving suspensions or prohibitions to impaired drivers since Dec. 1.
• The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse 2010 roadside surveys found 10 per cent of drivers tested had alcohol in their blood, down from more than 18 per cent in 1995.