July 12th, 2024

Mock collision staged in Coaldale to raise awareness about distracted driving

By Lethbridge Herald on May 19, 2022.

Students watch as firefighters remove the 'patient' from a vehicle during the mock car crash put on by Coaldale & District Emergency Services at Kate Andrews High School.

Nicholas Allen
For The Herald

Coaldale high school students witnessed a mock disaster put on by local emergency services on Wednesday.

Coaldale & District Emergency Services held a mock motor vehicle collision exercise at Kate Andrews High School to bring awareness to the dangers of distracted driving before the upcoming long weekend.

Also in attendance were representatives of the RCMP, EMS, TNT Towing and MADD. Lethbridge and Area MADD president Anita Huchala spoke to the students before the mock crash. She gave details on the injuries her son sustained as part of an accident in November 2008 after he attempted to change the music on his phone and it fell to the passenger floorboards. Huchala said he suffered multiple broken bones, including his legs.

“Due to the impact of the crash, his vehicle was not visible until the morning light. He had been trapped for approximately six to seven hours in the freezing temperatures,” said Huchala. “It was members of the Coaldale Fire Department who rescued my son.”

Huchala described how he was affected by the frostbite, adding that he was fortunate not to suffer any internal injuries to his organs. 

“He lost his fingers on his left hand due to the frostbite. All because he wanted to listen to a different tune. I can’t tell you how thankful I am each and every day that he is alive… driving is a skill that always requires the driver’s full attention.”

She said the “research is clear” and the “information is consistent” in regard to the dangers of driving while distracted. 

“As these first responders demonstrate a mock crash today, we want to encourage you to always drive sober and completely concentrate on the act of driving and make healthy life choices that will enable you to reach your personal goals as you navigate your future,” said Huchala.

Coaldale community peace officer Devon Nielsen was one of the first responders present at the mock crash demonstration. He said that the mock motor vehicle collision helps with the student’s ability to visualize what could happen in the event of an accident.

“It shows the process. Not only does it educate them on the dangers related to distracted driving, but it also kind of gives them a firsthand view of what our emergency services and law enforcement services do in this community,” said Nielson.

He added that being able to get to students when they are young and explaining the dangers of distracted driving is an important part of the event. 

“We have a lot of young drivers here at Kate Andrews [High School]. And first time you get your license it’s a big reality shock,” said Nielson. 

“We just want to educate them and just tell them the dangers that come with distracted driving.”

Another member of this process was student Abigail Giacchetta who said she is part of the Kate Andrews Fire and Emergencies Academy at Kate Andrews High School. She shared what her experience was playing one of the ‘patients’ in the mock disaster.

“I was driving this vehicle and got T-boned. So, they just kind of did a walkthrough of how you take someone out of the car…  [it was] good practice and kind of showing all the kids how you do it,” said Giacchetta.

She said the experience was different than expected, even describing being in the scenario as “nerve-racking”.

“When you’re looking up on like a spine board and there’s four firemen [above] you saying, ‘Okay, we are going to lift you up,’ it gets pretty intense,” said Giacchetta.

Many of the students were not able to take as hands-on a role as Giacchetta. Kate Andrews High School student Charlie Crombez expressed surprise at the variety of actions that can distract a person from driving.

“It’s really helpful to see what can happen if you’re distracted while driving,” said Crombez. “I obviously didn’t know it was not just using your phone or using drugs or alcohol.”

Fellow Kate Andrews High School student Amara Klassen shared that she didn’t know the extent of the actions that make up distracted driving 

“It was really interesting to see actually the aftermath of what can happen, like even simply doing distracting things, like checking a phone, skipping to the next song. It really shows what can happen and the really sad side effects of that,” said Klassen.

This lack of awareness is partially due to the last mock collision being held in 2018, according to officer Nielson. He said it was unfortunate they were unable to hold the event during those years due to COVID safety concerns.

“We’re really excited to get the chance to do it now [with a] fresh group of students who haven’t seen the mock motor vehicle collision… I hope that that they learned something from it,” said Nielson.

He also added that with people going out for the long weekend they are hoping that people remember to stay safe when they are driving and commuting.

“Especially kids doing stuff on the long weekend. We just want everyone to remember that it can happen to anyone and just to pay attention and drive with care,” added Nielson.

Nielson also said to make sure you are obeying the rules of the road and driving with care this upcoming long weekend.

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