Teaching Canadian teens to stay safe behind the wheel

One in four drivers aged 16 to 24 who died between 2000 and 2010 tested positive for cannabis. Yet, many young drivers don’t think driving while under the influence of drugs is dangerous. In fact, 22 per cent of youth who have used cannabis admit to driving under the influence.

But Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention, is trying to change that thinking. They’re holding their National Teen Driver Safety Week to increase public awareness of teen driver safety issues and to encourage community and youth involvement as part of the solution. Running from October 20 to 26, this year’s campaign is focusing on drug-impaired, drunk, distracted and aggressive driving.

“We want teen drivers and their passengers to know what ‘impaired’ means,” says Pamela Fuselli, Parachute’s President and CEO. “It means your physical and mental abilities to focus your attention on driving is compromised, whether temporarily—like when you reach for a phone—or longer term, when you have alcohol and/or drugs in your system. All drivers, but especially young inexperienced drivers, need to be able to focus on the complex task of driving without distraction or impairment.”

Risking more than just a hefty fine
Unfortunately, distracted or impaired driving can cost teens more than just their licence or a fine—a fact Sandra LaRose knows all too well. In August 2018, her 16-year-old daughter, Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk, died after her car was hit by a train. Kailynn had been using the GPS on her phone to navigate and didn’t see or hear the train coming.

“Ever since Kailynn’s accident, my purse goes into the back seat, and my phone does too,” says Sandra LaRose. “If it’s sitting on the seat next to you or on the console and it flickers, you’re going to look down. If you’re looking down, you’re not looking at the road.”

Sandra shared her family’s tragic story as part of Operation Lifesaver’s #STOPTrackTragedies campaign. In the video, she talks about Kailynn’s death and the risk that people take when they use their phones while driving.
Spreading the safety message to teens

To help teens understand the risks involved with distracted, impaired, and aggressive driving, Parachute will be sending out toolkits to help communities run activities throughout National Teen Driver Safety Week. The toolkits include a backgrounder and key messages, a social media guide, safety tips, promotional items, a Positive Ticketing Activity Guide with positive tickets and a Photobooth Selfie Activity Guide with selfie frames.

Communities across Canada will host a variety of activities and events, including Positive Ticketing Blitzes, where teens receive tickets for their good driving habits that they can use to win prizes. 

Help Parachute and Operation Lifesaver spread the safety message. Join the conversation using #KnowWhatImpairedMeans and #NTDSW2019 and help reduce the number of young people dying on Canadian roads.

To learn more about National Teen Driver Safety Week, visit parachute.ca/ntdsw.