There was no need to wait for the education film’s credits to roll to see the moral from Mothers Against Drunk Driving hit home at the assembly at Grant Park High on Friday.
Just as there was no need to be reminded how deadly serious the province’s political and education leaders take teenagers drinking and driving.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan sat in the front row on the gym’s bleachers, along with MADD national president Denise Dubyk from Calgary and Manitoba Public Insurance spokesman Brian Smiley. Each gave speeches to warn students to think before they get behind the wheel, especially with the May long weekend coming up.
The hour-long screening featured a tragedy involving a couple in the blush of first love and the driver of a second car. The setting was a holiday long weekend, the scenery like cottage country in the Lake of the Woods. It ended in a ball of fire on a back road.
Bailey Oakley, 18, and two of her classmates, both expected sad stories about families suffering the ultimate loss.
"It’s always tragic, these videos," Oakley said.
The film’s dramatic techniques, with bleak Dickensian overtones, proved harsh enough to send a handful of students slipping out of the dark auditorium with tears in their eyes.
Outside the doors, MADD outreach worker Chaouki Humka waited to console them. In a brief interview, he said he offers a shoulder and an open ear to kids brought to tears by MADD’s films every year.
This year’s film relies on simple techniques that are intended to scare kids straight.
"This one isn’t as harsh as some of the others have been," Humka said.
Before the lights dimmed, Dubyk took the assembly through the grim statistical reality: drinking and driving claims 350 teens and young adults before their 25th birthday and injures 41,000 others every year in Canada.
In Manitoba, one person dies every week, the victim of a drunk or distracted driver.
"They’re not accidents. They’re crashes," Dubyk said.
"Let me tell you, the next long weekend could be their last long weekend. I don’t say it because it’s dramatic. I say it because it’s true. It could be your last long weekend."
In 25 years MADD, a non profit charity that works to keep highways free of carnage, figures it’s message has saved perhaps 40,000 lives.
Every year, with each fresh film MADD sends outreach workers like Humka on the road for school screenings coast to coast. He’ll be with the film as it makes 85 stops in Manitoba schools over the next six weeks.
For his part, Manitoba’s justice minister issued a direct appeal. "Everyone in this gym is so important. You are our province’s future and all your hopes and dreams could be gone in an instant if you make the choice to drink and drive or get in a car with someone who’s impaired," Swan said.