Mowat backs sober driving

Local students are adding their voices to a nation-wide call to put an end to impaired driving.

East Scarboroughs Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate is taking part in the National Students Against Impaired and Distracted Driving campaign, one that aims to provide members with the resources to educate their peers about the perils of dangerous driving.

“We give students an idea of the kind of activities at their school they can run that will engage other youth in a discussion around impaired and distracted driving,” said Frances Wdowczyk, executive director of the Student Life Education Company, the charity that organizes the campaign.

“We believe that peer-to-peer education is the most powerful education because they listen to each other.”

According to the organization’s press release, a half-million students around the country — including kids at Mowat — will participate in events designed to promote safe driving at their own schools this year.

“We do a school-wide awareness piece, which is an assembly that we have,” said Tom Lazarou, Mowat’s principal. “That goes through our Empowered Student Partnership, a group of students grades 9 through 12, and they work with a staff advisor.

“It is usually an assembly where agencies will come in and put on an information session.”

Toronto Police from 43 Division also get involved.

“That’s how we bring awareness to the cause of students against impaired and distracted driving,” Lazarou said.

Lazarou said Mowat students are well-informed and “highly in-tune” with the issue of impaired and distracted driving, despite the fact there haven’t been any major incidents involving this issue in the school community that he knows of.

“The students are very much engaged, they’re very supportive,” Lazarou said. “We’re in a different scenario than many other schools.

“The majority of our students walk to school, they don’t even TTC it in. Not many student drivers.

“But is there an awareness out there? Are they interested? Definitely.”

The campaign kicked off Oct. 16 at Northern Secondary School in Toronto, where students watched presentations from the fire department and EMS representatives about impaired driving.

Toronto Public Health, the OPP, Toronto Police Services and the Ontario Community Council Against Impaired Driving set up interactive booths for kids to visit.

“Many of them had the vision-impaired goggles,” Wdowczyk said. “When you put them on, they simulate a level of impairment usually equaling two drinks.

“Students do some tasks — walking on a line, having to do a small obstacle course, throwing or trying to catch something — so that they can really, without having to experience intoxication, have a visual of what that’s like and understand why we say zero is the only appropriate amount of alcohol you can consume,” she said.

Wdowczyk said each year, the Student Life Education Company puts together a kit for participating schools. Each package contains information and materials about preventing impaired driving for student organizers to share with their peers.

“The best way to get involved is to visit and click on the NSAIDD icon and send us an e-mail,” Wdowczyk said. “We try to do all our stuff for free for schools, so the more the merrier.

“We believe in giving them the tips and the strategies to fill that void. Youth say to us, ’Don’t just tell me no. Tell me what to do instead.’ “