VR teaches kids about the dangers of drunk driving

The program is called 'SmartWheels' and uses virtual reality to teach students across Ontario in a mobile trailer.

The program is for students in Grades 4-6

Grade 6 students from L.A. Desmarais Catholic Elementary School experience what it's like behind the wheel. (Arms Bumanlag/CBC)

Kids in Grades 4-6 are getting a different kind of education this week.

Ontario Provincial Police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are teaching them about the risks associated when you mix alcohol, drugs and driving. 

The program is called 'SmartWheels' and uses virtual reality to teach students across Ontario in a mobile trailer. Students at Holy Name Catholic Elementary School and L.A. Desmarais Catholic Elementary School spent Wednesday and Thursday taking part in the interactive learning activity.

"Recent studies show 14 per cent of Grade 6 students, as young as age 11, have already tried alcohol or drugs," said Harrison Hall with MADD Canada. "Statistics like that prove the conversation needs to be had."

The program's goal, said Hall is to make sure students understand the risks of trying drugs and alcohol — and that it's not okay to do so at such a young age. 

"The goal is to affect you now, because these choices will affect you in the next few years," said Hall to the 23 students from L.A. Desmarais Thursday.

Students wore virtual reality goggles which put them in the driver's seat of a car and gave them the experience of driving under the influence. The goal isn't to scare the students, said Hall, but to show students the dangers. 

"This has a lesson to teach. It could save your life," said Hall. 

Grade 6 student Tava Hooker was just excited to do virtual reality, but she said she learned a lot.

"Experiencing being a drunk driver and being high on marijuana when driving ... it was kind of scary," said Hooker. "I wouldn't drive drunk or high."

L.A. Desmarais teacher Nicole Carter was thrilled the opportunity to participate in the program came up.

"It coincides directly with our health curriculum, it lets them be further informed about drug and alcohol awareness," said Carter.

Nicole Carter, a Grade 6 teacher, hopes her students take what they've learned into their teenage years. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

"We know students now as young as 11 years old are trying drugs and alcohol. It's absolutely important to teach them about the dangers of it."

Carter said teaching the children at such a young age will also give them an opportunity to bring what they learned into the community. 

"We hope it's something they're going to bring into their adolescence and teenage years."

With files from Arms Bumanlag


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