Being a mother who has not lost a family member to drunk driving does not make Everilda Ratnakumar any less concerned about the serious effects of impaired driving.
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) volunteer for the past four years was elected president of the Toronto chapter earlier this year.
“I am seeking to get into law enforcement and I feel passionate about this campaign because I have seen how it has destroyed lives,” said Ratnakumar, at this year’s Project Red Ribbon launch at police headquarters on Nov. 5.
Now in its 26th year, the project is Canada’s longest-running public awareness campaign during seasonal celebrations that make impaired driving a heightened concern. The campaign runs from Nov. 1 to the first Monday in the New Year.
“Every single life lost and every single injury caused by impaired driving is senseless,” said MADD Canada national president Angeliki Souranis, who knows first-hand how impaired driving can destroy lives.
Her 20-year-old son, Craig, who had been out drinking with friends at a lake, was killed in a collision five years ago. He was a passenger in a van with a young and inexperienced driver who was also drinking. At the time of the crash, he was not wearing a seat belt.
With expertise in trauma, Souranis provides intervention, evaluation and counseling to children and families in the Emergency, Intensive Care and Acute Care units at Montreal Children’s Hospital. She also has extensive experience in teaching and public speaking in the areas of child physical and sexual abuse, and traumatic injury.
Although Souranis has 27 years of professional experience in the field of social work, and she has helped countless parents and families on their journeys of grief and healing, nothing could have prepared her for the loss of her son.
“I was not prepared for the grief that came after he passed away,” she said.
“I wish I could adequately convey the impact his death has had on his family. We are forever changed… This is a preventable crime and these are preventable tragedies… We all have the power to stop this senseless crime.”
Souranis unveiled MADD’s newest television public service announcement, Full Circle  at the launch.
“As the busy holiday season gets underway, this simple yet powerful 30-second PSA will remind people about how quickly and how permanently lives can change when someone makes the awful decision to drive impaired,” she said.
Chief Bill Blair lauded his Service’s longstanding partnership with MADD and encouraged Toronto residents to embrace the Project Red Ribbon campaign.
“This campaign is a great opportunity for us to remind each other and fellow citizens of the importance of making the right choice to drive safe and sober,” Blair said.
“It also reminds all of us that we have a responsibility to keep our roads safe and that when we see someone who is making the wrong choice, we have a responsibility to call 9-1-1 to alert the authorities and give us the opportunity to make our roadways safe and to get that individual off the road.”
As the busy holiday season gets underway, this simple yet powerful 30-second PSA will remind people about how quickly and how permanently lives can change when someone makes the awful decision to drive impaired
Ontario’s Transportation Minister Glen Murray said the province is committed to making the roads safe.
“In 2012, Ontario had the lowest impaired-driving offences rate in Canada which was almost 50 per cent lower than the national average,” he said.
“Between 2000 and 2010, the number of drinking and driving fatalities fell from 227 to 160 and the number of serious injuries dropped from 684 to 296. It’s important we continue to lead the way.”
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Chief Superintendent Don Bell said drinking and driving accounts for almost a quarter of fatalities on Ontario roads.
Last year, the OPP investigated 294 fatal motor vehicle collisions of which 73 were alcohol-related. So far this year, 48 of the 213 fatal motor vehicle accidents have been related to alcohol.
In 2012, the OPP laid over 10,000 impaired-driving charges.
“We have to remember that driving is about making choices,” said Bell.
“We have to start making the right choice. Irresponsible choices can’t be tolerated. It’s through campaigns such as this that we can continue to educate and spread the good word to prevent some of the tragic losses.”