It was one of those things that may have once seemed comical.
Today, however, it serves as a reminder of how serious a problem drunk driving is in this province.
Two men were both charged with impaired driving after crashing their pickups into each other, according to front page story in The Regina Leader-Post late last month.
The accident occurred 1:18 a.m. Aug. 30 on the Trans-Canada Highway about one kilometre west of Pilot Butte when a Ford Raptor collided with a GMC Sierra as both were heading east. The accident caused both vehicles to roll, with the Raptor winding up in the ditch and the Sierra in the median.
Charged in the incident were a 20-year-old man who was driving the Raptor and a 40-year-old man in the Sierra. A woman passenger in the Raptor was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, but neither driver required medical attention.
Admittedly, to have two impaired drivers in the same accident is a rarity. And 30-plus years ago when drinking and driving was somehow more culturally acceptable — especially in rural settings like the one I grew up in — it might not have raised many eyebrows.
But after decades of carnage on our highways, we thankfully take drunk driving more seriously today.
It is for that reason that maybe all of us have to take a second look at new Saskatchewan legislative committee recommendations surrounding impaired driving and ask whether they go far enough.
By an ironic coincidence, the very day that the bizarre drunk driving story ran in the newspaper was the day that the Legislature’s Traffic Safety Committee released its report — a report that groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said fell short.
Admittedly, the report did have some solid enough recommendations like zero tolerance for drivers under Saskatchewan’s legal drinking age (19 years) caught driving. (Although MADD said zero drinking should be extending to 21-year-olds.)
But one recommendation that both MADD and the NDP opposition said needed to be included was an immediate three-day impoundment of vehicles for any caught with blood alcohol content readings of .05.
Some critics of the recommendation complain that it is far too draconian. They argue that it infringes on people’s property rights and that it would be grossly unfair for people who need their vehicle to make a living to lose their jobs over one or two beers.
After all, the Criminal Code states it’s not illegal to drive if you have a blood alcohol reading under .08.
Legislative Secretary and traffic safety committee chair Darryl Hickie was slightly more diplomatic, explaining that government members thought it better to proceed in a more “incremental” way.
But NDP MLA and deputy chair Danielle Chartier, NDP MLA said the Sask. Party government is simply choosing “to ignore important evidence presented by policy experts in the field of traffic safety, and with that will be putting Saskatchewan lives at risk.”
Chartier noted that both B.C. and Alberta have moved to the .05-three-day impoundment and have seen drunk-driving related fatalities decline. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan continues to suffer from the highest alcohol-related fatality rate among the provinces.
“Suspensions are easy to live with. Many people drive while suspended,” Chartier said. “In fact, we heard up to 70 per cent of people will drive while suspended. It’s much harder to hide a three-day vehicle impoundment from your spouse or your parents than a short-term license suspension.”
Admittedly, in a province with a large rural base, such measures are tough for a government to implement — especially with rural hotel owners’ concerns that it will hamper business.
But maybe it’s time we started to see drunk driving for what it is — a real danger, rather than a laughing matter we once thought it to be.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.