Despite making nearly 1,100 arrests this year for impaired driving, citizens don’t seem to be getting the message that drinking and driving is dangerous and could lead to serious injury and death.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders came to this conclusion at this year’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Toronto chapter launch on November 7 at police headquarters.
Now in its 29th 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.
“Here we are, at police headquarters, having this conversation in 2016 when we have got the most available opportunities in moving from point A to point B, we have got the strongest laws in the country, almost in the world, yet we still have to arrest people for the most avoidable criminal offence in the Criminal Code,” said Saunders. “People are still making the wrong decisions…So the word is not resonating loud enough. It is all about making the right decisions and having a plan.”
Saunders thanked MADD for promoting education and awareness and urged community members to help save lives on the streets.
“If you see something, report it,” he said. “The men and women of Toronto Police are going to enforce. If you are going to make that decision, and it’s a bad one, we will be there and we will enforce because that’s the best that we can do.”
Four people are killed and 175 injured daily in Canada by impairment-related crashes.
Approximately, 65,000 Canadians are affected by impaired drivers annually.
Steven Del Duca, the province’s Minister of Transportation, said there is no reason that anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol should be driving.
“We know that this is unacceptable,” he said. “We also know that more needs to be done to prevent these collisions from occurring.”
Del Duca applauded MADD for its ongoing fight against impaired driving in communities across Ontario.
“We look forward to working with MADD and with our partners to keep our roads safe because we know there is simply no place for impaired drivers on Ontario’s roads,” added Del Duca.
No one knows more about the disastrous consequences of drinking and driving than those in the insurance industry.
“Working in the insurance industry gives me a first-hand look at what can happen when someone chooses to drive impaired,” said Lisa McWatt of All State Insurance, the national sponsor for Project Red Ribbon. “Once the police and paramedics have done their jobs, people like us help the affected person pick up the pieces. This can be anything from repairing property damage to helping those who were injured get back on their feet or counselling a family which has lost a loved one as a result of an impaired-driving collision.
“As the holiday season approaches, it is important to remember that, as magical as this time of year can be, with all the festivities and celebrations, the risk of impaired driving increases. These ribbons, though small, are a powerful symbol of a driver’s commitment to sober driving and a tribute to the hundreds of victims killed and the thousands who have been injured every year.”
Alcohol and/or drugs are involved in 58 per cent of all road crash deaths in Canada.
MADD Toronto president Everilda Ratnakumar said leadership from lawmakers and governments is crucial when it comes to preventing impaired driving.
She also said her organization values its longstanding relationship with Toronto Police which hosts the Project Red Ribbon campaign launch annually.