The Children Have Spoken

Students Against Drinking and Driving

When Lethbridge student Kimberlie Crowe designed a paper bag asking people not to drink and drive, she never expected her design to be printed on one million bags, which are being distributed by most Alberta liquor stores on the May long weekend. But the message she sends is powerful: “When you make the decision to drive under the influence of alcohol you are not only putting yourself at risk but also those around you. Understanding the consequences of drunk driving is important and can save lives,” says the grade 11 student.

It’s a truth that’s recognized by both the Students Against Drinking and Driving Association (SADD Alberta) and Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC). “The message of impaired driving has been around a long time,” says Eric Baich, AGLC Manager, Social Responsibility, Liquor. “Most Albertans know by now that driving while impaired is a dangerous and illegal behaviour, unfortunately some still choose to do it.”



Category Winners above L-R: Category 1 Winner – Valery, Grade 6, Our Lady of Peace Elementary & Jr. High School Calgary; Category 2 Winner – Leah, Grade 9, H.W. Pickup Jr. High School, Drayton Valley; Category 3 Winner – Bailey, Grade 12, Fort McMurray Composite High School, Fort McMurray

To address the persistent gap between knowledge and behaviour, SADD Alberta and the AGLC have once again teamed up to encourage students from kindergarten to grade 12 across the province to design a paper liquor bag with a personal message about the dangers of impaired driving. “We are hoping that Albertans will hear from youth that driving impaired is just not worth risking the lives of others,” explains Baich.

“Participating in the liquor bag campaign has been a great opportunity. I created my bag in hope of having a positive effect on one’s decision to not drink and drive. When you make the decision to drive under the influence of alcohol you are not only putting yourself at risk but also those around you. Understanding the consequences of drunk driving is important and can save lives.”

Liquor Bag Design Contest Winner – Kimberlie Crowe, Grade 11 Lethbridge Collegiate Institute

In its fifth year of partnership between SADD Alberta and the AGLC, the campaign just keeps growing: 282 schools participated this year, which is a 10% increase from last year. Participating schools order paper bags in the fall from SADD Alberta. Students design their bags then schools collect them and take them to nearby liquor stores for distribution to customers.

“While I was making this, I believed that everyone’s life matters and if there was any way to prevent accidents of any kind I would do all I could. I made this to show that everyone’s life matters. If people stop Drinking and Driving we could probably prevent a lot more fatal accidents or injuries.”

Category One Winner – Valery, Grade 6 Our Lady of Peace Elementary & Jr. High School

In 2015, the liquor bag campaign added a contest, where schools enter their best designs for judging. Winners are selected in three categories (K-6, 7-9 and 10-12) and are awarded gift cards, while the overall winning design gets printed onto one million bags.

‘In Alberta, about ninety people are killed every year in impaired driving collisions, which are completely preventable deaths. Like the girl in my drawing, if you drink and drive you are taking a risk with your own and other people’s lives. If you choose to consume alcohol, don’t make the choice to get behind the wheel.”

Category 2 Winner – Leah, Grade 9 H. W. Pickup Jr. High School

“Everybody loves it because the bag could be designed by someone who is living right there in the community,” says Arthur Lee, SADD Alberta’s Provincial Community Liaison. Lee explains how one gentleman, after receiving a paper bag at his local store, took the time to write a letter praising the initiative and thanking them for helping to get the message out in such a creative way. “There’s a lot of messaging and pre-printed graphic designs out there,” says Lee, “but if you get something that’s hand-drawn and that’s not necessarily perfect, people stop to take a look at it and read the messages.”

“There isn’t a person in this entire world, who should know the tragedy of losing a loved one to drunk driving. Yet, for far too long drunk driving has robbed people of their loved ones’ safety. Drunk driving doesn’t just put the individual at risk, it imposes danger upon those around us as well. So with drunk driving as one of the leading causes of death in Canada, let us remember to never drink and drive.”

Category 3 Winner – Bailey, Grade 12 Fort McMurray Composite High School

Those messages are what made the campaign so successful. In 2014 the schools ordered 30,500 bags before the Christmas campaign; and in just two years those numbers more than doubled, to 65,000. Lee is impressed with the teaching that goes along with the campaign in schools, noting that although teachers are supported with an information sheet, they’re going above and beyond to educate students about the realities of impaired driving. “In the last two years, I’ve been blown away by the discussions the teachers have had when I go into the classrooms,” he says. “It’s not a 30-second ad on the radio. They’re sitting down and talking about it, and using images and videos.” Some schools have moved toward doing the bags as a school-wide project, says Lee, noting one southern Alberta school hosted a week-long open creative space in its cafeteria, so students could come in during lunch and work on their designs. Increasingly, media outlets like Global and CTV are invited in to capture footage as students work on their bags.

While last year’s winning bag was designed by a grade six child, delivering a sense of unpolished innocence, this year, Crowe’s mature design took top honours. Her image shows two wine glasses clinking, and red wine subsequently spilling all over an accident scene below. “It pops off the bag and will catch the eye and hopefully the minds and thoughts of all Albertans,” describes Baich.

The hope is that hearing young peoples’ voices will influence those who are drinking to take a cab or organize a designated driver. “When messages come from a student, there is no filter, and no polish to what they say. It is just honest and from the heart,” says Baich. “I think we all respond well to such honest and authentic messages.”