Mount Pearl Senior High students entering the school’s gymnasium Wednesday morning were initially boisterous and free-spirited, but once the film screening at the front of the room started, their attention was rapt.
They were the first of what’s expected to be thousands of students in Newfoundland and Labrador who will watch a new film prepared by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada called “Damages.”
The slick 45-minute film depicts the consequences of a young man’s decision to drive while impaired, told through a series of flashbacks as he takes part in a jury trial. Afterwards, real people who have lost loved ones to impaired driving accidents shared their feelings over having lost family members to a senseless act.
The gymnasium was largely silent for the film’s duration, and a group of Grade 12 students who spoke with media after it finished agreed it affected them.
“I cried a lot,” said Julia Sears, who vowed after viewing the film she could never see herself riding in a vehicle with an impaired driver.
“It’s really emotional,” added Jillian Morgan. “I don’t ever want to be in one of those situations like we saw today.”
The film will be presented in 25 schools across the province in the coming weeks. MADD Canada president Denise Dubyk was present for Wednesday’s screening of “Damages.”
“What we talk about here is the real consequences of drunk driving. I believe each person that leaves that gymnasium takes something with them.”
Dubyk said each year MADD Canada prepares its multi-media presentations, it looks to incorporate all aspects of drunk driving’s lasting impact. “Damages” is unique project for the organization in bringing viewers inside the courtroom.
“We’re seeing how this young man ended-up in the courtroom, and all of the consequences for an impaired driver also,” said Dubyk.
Amongst those consequences depicted in the film are loss of life, permanent disability, hindered career options, and the possibility of serving jail time.
She said it was important to include the stories of real-life cases at the end to show even though the film may be fictional, it deals with a real problem.
Dubyk herself knows all too well how real it is. In May 2000, her son-in-law was killed in an accident while getting a lift with an impaired driver. Darryl Ray left behind his wife, Tammy, and their two young children.
“Being able to be a part of making change out there for other families so that this doesn’t happen to others and to save them from the needless pain and grief caused by impaired driving, and also being able to advocate with the governments to bring in improved impaired driving legislation and toughen the laws up for me is a goal and it’s in honour of Darryl’s memory, my grandchildren’s father.”
The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation is sponsoring the film’s trip across the province. David Frew, vice-president of human resources and corporate administration, told students prior to the screening if they drink illegally, they need to make a commitment not to drive.
He also added they should support one another in making the right decisions, and to be up front with parents should they find themselves in compromising situations where they may get in trouble for being caught drinking. Frew said calling a parent to ask for a ride home displays maturity and intelligence on the student’s part.