A new SGI virtual reality experience simulates a collision that ends in tragedy, coinciding with impaired driving month.
Tyler wobbles and his eyes become increasingly red-rimmed as he smokes a joint at a house party. He dangles his keys, insisting that he is the best person to drive you and Megan to a concert.
After swerving in and out of oncoming traffic, getting honked at by passing cars and running a red light, Megan has had enough — she gets him to pull over and exits the car to call a cab.
You stay in the front passenger seat and Tyler takes off again. It’s not long before he runs the next red light, this time to be T-boned by a Jeep.
You end up in the hospital, covered in blood. A nurse tells you you’re probably paralyzed. Tyler is near you in the emergency room, with two broken arms. He keeps uttering apologies.
Nearby, a man pleads with a doctor to save his pregnant wife — they were the passengers in the other car, on their way home from their baby shower.
This is the story told in a new virtual-reality experience that SGI is touring to schools and public events.
“It was unsettling, especially when you get to that moment where the collision’s just about to happen and you feel very helpless,” said Saskatchewan Government Insurance spokesman Tyler McMurchy, who by coincidence shares a name with the main character.
“I think it’s a feeling that you won’t forget right away.”
With high school graduation season beginning in May, SGI is highlighting the issue of impaired driving in its monthly traffic safety campaign.
Saskatchewan has the highest impaired driving rate among the provinces.
There were 575 police-reported impaired driving incidents per 100,000 people in 2015, according to Statistics Canada. Alberta had the second-highest rate at 314; the national average was 201.
“We know that young people are over-represented when it comes to fatal impaired driving collisions,” said McMurchy.
In 2016, of 1,047 drivers involved in alcohol-related collisions, 554 were 30 years old or younger; 199 were 21 or younger.
“We really want people to plan a safe ride before they go out, because nobody’s making good decisions after they’ve had a bunch of drinks or been doing drugs,” said McMurchy.
In the simulation, the character Tyler is smoking marijuana. With cannabis legalization scheduled for this summer, “Obviously it’s a traffic safety concern,” said McMurchy.
Whether someone is using drugs or alcohol, “If it impairs you, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. … Impaired is impaired,” he added.
SGI’s Be A Good Wingman campaign is about stopping impaired friends from driving.
Another SGI campaign put real faces to the cause: People Shouldn’t Disappear featured 12 Saskatchewan people — including Saskatoon’s Van de Vorst family and Regina’s Tanner Kaufmann — who were killed by impaired drivers.
Law enforcement is helping change attitudes too, said McMurchy.
In 2017, Saskatchewan tightened its impaired driving legislation, adding a three-day vehicle seizure to the penalty for a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04 or higher. With a 0.04 BAC, a first-time offender would also lose their licence for three days.
The penalty for drug impairment of a first-time offender matches that.
While 2017 numbers have not yet been tallied, McMurchy said overall road fatalities were down. He expects SGI will see a drop in impaired driving fatalities; in 2016, 57 people died and 441 were injured.