The Battlefords Union Hospital Foundation has unveiled a new tool to help prevent more victims of drunk driving from entering their emergency room.
That tool is called SIDNE – a Simulated Impaired Driving Experience. It was officially launched Thursday in Battleford.
The Battlefords is the first location in Saskatchewan for the SIDNE vehicle, but there are 10 across Canada.
The SIDNE vehicle is a battery-operated go-cart designed to simulate the effects of impaired driving.
It is designed to go around an obstacle course, which was set up in the parking lot of the Alex Dillabough Centre.
That is where BUH’s PARTY program – Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth – has started conducting presentations with area schools about the impact of impaired driving. The sessions will run for two weeks during the fall and again for two weeks in the spring.
The target audience is students in Grades 9 and 10 who are about to get their licences, but it is also available for Grade 12 just prior to graduation as a way to remind them of the dangers of drinking and driving.
The PARTY program had been in existence for about 10 years at BUH, but this was seen as a way to enhance that program.
Students come to Battlefords Union Hospital to watch real-life videos and hear from victims of impaired driving, as well as hospital staff and front-line emergency personnel, including the RCMP, who share stories about the consequences of impaired driving.
Afterwards, the students come out to Alex Dillabough to the obstacle course and try out the SIDNE vehicle for themselves on the obstacle course.
Several area schools have been taking part this week. A number of John Paul II Collegiate students experienced SIDNE in the afternoon, after the official launch was over.
According to Chris Etcheverry, nurse manager for BUH, the go-cart operates in two speeds – normal and “impaired” mode. Instructors are able to control the speeds.
“Obviously we want to make the experience as realistic as we possibly can for our youth,” said Etcheverry.
“It brings clinical reality, vivid reality, to our children.”
The other message they want to send to kids is to prevent distracted driving and to not text and drive or use cell phones while driving.
A capital campaign had been under way to raise $30,000 towards acquiring the SIDNE vehicle. In addition to individual donations there were corporate donations, including a matching donations campaign by Bridges Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd. that raised 85 per cent of the funds required.
Battlefords Tim Hortons provided proceeds from their Smile Cookie campaign and Saskatchewan Mutual Insurance also contributed.
Other supporters acknowledged include Kramer Trailer Sales, Ultra Print, Innovation Credit Union staff, Scott Campbell Dodge, Royal Canadian Legion No. 9, H. Hardcastle School students and Wendy Gunn.
Getting a chance to try out the SIDNE vehicle on the obstacle course was Walter Houk of Bridges Chevrolet Buick GMC and his passenger Roger Anderson of the BUH Foundation.
Houk took the go-cart on three trips around the obstacle course that was set up with pylons and with cutout pictures of pedestrians along the sides of the road.
He was able to handle the obstacle course pretty well on the first go around, but, on the third time around, Houk had lots of problems, with his vehicle losing control, failing to stop and actually running off the course and into the pedestrians.
As a passenger, Anderson described the experience as “a little bit scary,” he said, particularly noting there were times when the driver seemed to lose control.
Houk pointed to times when he felt the wheels wouldn’t turn or he couldn’t brake in time.
“That was a good experience. I can see this will get the point across,” said Houk.
Etcheverry is confident the SIDNE vehicle will get the message to youth.
“If we can make one difference in any one of our youth, that is the ultimate goal,” said Etcheverry.