So are the numbers.
In Saskatchewan, the statistics for injuries in the youth population are staggering.
Youth between the ages of 15-24 are injured or killed in motor vehicle crashes 2 ½ times more than other age groups.
The cost of injuries in Canada is estimated at 15 billion dollars.
In an effort to combat those trends, and help create more awareness of the potential consequences of dangerous behaviour, a group of students from Shaunavon High School took part in a unique education initiative last week known as the PARTY (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) Program.
The students, in this case all Grade 11 kids, were on hand to witness – in a mock scenario – a car crash that claimed the life of a young student, injured two others, including an infant, and led to the arrest of a fourth youth.
Distracted driving and alcohol are often contributing factors in these types of incidents and one of the driver’s in last week’s crash had been partying after celebrating a football victory.
The full-day event started at the scene of the staged collision, beginning with a first-hand look at what happens when emergency personnel respond to these types of incidents.
For the second year in a row, the event was held in the curling rink of the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre under dark conditions, with only some portable lights helping guide the emergency crews.
The scene once again had an eerily real tone, even though the crash scene had been carefully staged and the victims were only wearing makeup.
The unanswered cell phone of one of the crash victims, ringing in the dark, added another grim element to the proceedings.
Later, the Grade 11 students followed the path of those injured in the wreck including their care and recovery at the hospital.
A total of 30 kids participated in the event.
The students broke into smaller groups as they moved from station to station for the various presentations throughout the day.
The PARTY Program offers a hard-edged approach to injury prevention through a healthy dose of reality education.
“Youth are encouraged to participate fully in their lives understanding what they need to make choices to live their lives safely, and where to draw the line between independence and injury,” said Marilyn Durant of the Cypress Health Region, who co-ordinated last week’s event. “The program presents factual information to youth about their risk for preventable injury and their choices to mitigate risks.”
The day featured short presentations by a variety of health professionals, including frank and graphic discussions about what trauma patients go through. Among their stops was a trip to Binkley’s Funeral Home as well as a makeshift emergency ward in a dressing room at the Wickenheiser Centre.
The tragic reality of last week’s mock crash is happening much more frequently than most people might realize.
Health officials say that stats show Saskatchewan spends approximately $1 billion each year on health care for preventable injuries.
Statistics also show that the leading cause of death among young people in Canada is unintentional injury, and Saskatchewan has the most injuries per capita in the country.
One of the important messages being delivered by health leaders last week was that injuries are not “accidents”, and that a vast majority of injuries are preventable.
Eighty-five per cent of all vehicle collisions, for example, are caused by driver error. Distracted driving, meanwhile, has overtaken drinking and driving as the number one cause of injury and fatality for youth at the wheel.
“Youth are encouraged to discuss a contract with their parents around drinking and driving, safe rides home and distracted driving to provide choices and alternatives for safety,” said Durant, who works with the health region’s Acquired Brain Injury Services program.
Officials also say that many people are only aware of those tragic circumstances that end in death, because they are the ones that get reported in the news, but that incidents like those depicted in last week’s mock crash also result in devastating injuries that have long-term consequences for everyone involved, including the crash victims, their families and friends.
The event was sponsored by the Shaunavon High School Parent Advisory, but enjoyed the assistance and support of a variety of local groups and organizations.
“The community of Shaunavon has made a huge investment in their youth to help prevent future injury,” said Durant. “Volunteer Fire Fighters, RCMP, Shaunavon High School, Shaunavon High School Parent Advisory, Cypress Health EMS, Addictions, Rehabilitation Therapies, Binkley’s Funeral Home, Town of Shaunavon, as well as Acquired Brain Injury and SGI have partnered together to make this event happen.”
At noon, the students took part in a “disabilities lunch,” which saw kids assigned specific disabilities that they had to deal with during the lunch hour.
In the afternoon, students heard from a local crash survivor, Jeff Mason, who was the passenger in a truck that was involved in a horrific collision with a semi-trailer more than 10 years ago. The crash killed Jeff’s friend and left him life-long injuries.
Organizers wanted to make things as realistic as possible, highlighting the fact that teenagers injured in these types of incidents can be friends and classmates – people they have known their entire lives.
“No one day event will reduce injury in our youth,” stated Durant. “But the community of Shaunavon has taken a big step toward reminding us all to assist our youth make the choices that promote health and safety.”
The PARTY program has become a regular fall season activity for Shaunavon High School. It is aimed at the Grade 11 class each year.
Eastend has also staged several PARTY programs over the years and Frontier held its first event earlier this year.