The devastation caused by impaired driving continues well beyond the day of the collision.
Amy Kirk can attest to that after she and a friend were struck by a drunk driver while celebrating Canada Day two decades ago.
They were standing at a bus stop in the Woodbine Ave. and Queen St. E. area, when an impaired motorist crashed into them, leaving them both with serious injuries.
“My ankle was crushed and I had to have a metal implant,” said Kirk. “I have since had two more surgeries. More than having to endure the pain from my injuries, dealing with the criminal charges and a civil suit also took a toll on me.”
Five years ago, Kirk joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Toronto chapter.
“For a long time, I didn’t walk to talk about what happened to me,” she said. “Nothing happens before its time and I just felt the time was right when I stepped forward.”
Kirk joined law enforcement, first-responders and advocates against drunk driving at police headquarters on November 3 for this year’s Project Red Ribbon launch.
This ribbon has been a reminder to all Ontarians about the perils of drinking and driving
Now in its 28th year, the project is Canada’s longest-running public awareness campaign during seasonal celebrations that makes impaired driving a heightened concern. The campaign runs from Nov. 1 to the first Monday in the New Year.
“We want our red ribbons to be seen everywhere to remind people that it’s never acceptable to drive impaired,” said MADD Toronto president Everilda Ratnakumar. “Ever year, between 1,250 and 1,500 people are killed in impairment-related crashes. Another 6,300 are injured. These deaths and injuries are completely preventable. That’s why Project Red Ribbon continues to be one of our most important awareness campaigns. We need to drive home the message that impaired driving can be prevented if everyone makes good, responsible and safe choices.”
Chief Mark Saunders said the Toronto Police Service has every reason to support the Red Ribbon campaign.
“As we go into the holiday season, this is a time when there is more opportunity to make wrong decisions,” he said. “Looking at this wall of people who have been killed as a result of impaired driving is a sobering reminder. The reason this provokes me the most is because it’s such an avoidable offence. There are so many criminal offences but, out of all of them, this one is the most avoidable just by making the right choices.
“If you see anyone who is driving impaired, or you believe they are impaired, make that 9-1-1 call... We have over 5,300 kilometres of roadway and we want to make sure that everybody this season has a safe holiday.”
Steven Del Duca, the province’s Transportation Minister, said the Red Ribbon campaign has successfully raised awareness about the tragic, potentially fatal, always harmful and entirely preventable consequences of impaired driving.
He commended MADD, Toronto Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and other road safety partners for all they do to keep Ontario’s roads safe.
Earlier this year, the provincial government unanimously passed new legislation to reduce collisions, injuries and fatalities.
“The legislation targets drivers who repeatedly drive impaired by requiring them to complete intensive alcohol-related education, treatment and monitoring programs,” said Del Duca. “The legislation will soon see measures in effect to target drug-imapired drivers by applying the same tough sanctions used for alcohol-impaired… Nobody should be getting into a car after they have been drinking or taking drugs.”
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi said there’s nothing festive or joyous about drinking and driving.
“If anything, we know it can rip lives apart… This ribbon has been a reminder to all Ontarians about the perils of drinking and driving… It’s also a reminder to friends and family that when they see somebody who has had one too many drinks to take their car keys away from them and say, ‘not today, maybe you should take a taxi home or sleep overnight at a friend’s place’.”
Last year, there were 33 alcohol-related deaths on highways patrolled by the OPP.
“Although that number may seem small, it is huge to the families and the victims that are involved,” said OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes. “One incident will have a long and life-lasting impact to those victims. One of the worst roles that a police officer can do is go to a house at 3 a.m. in the morning, knock on that door and tell a family member that somebody has died as a result of an impaired driver.”
Toronto Paramedic Services Chief Paul Raftis, Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Jim Jessop and Allstate Canada brand innovation director Lisa McWatt also spoke at the Red Ribbon launch.