Friday November 28, 2014

What is it going to take to stop drunk driving?


Last month in Saskatchewan, 515 people were charged with drinking and driving offences. That’s a big number.

On Monday, there were three in Yorkton Provincial Court alone. Unfortunately, that’s a really slow week.

And the scourge of drunk driving is not dominated by any one or two demographic groups. Drunk drivers are young and old, male and female, professional and working class, Canadian-born and immigrant.

“What is most frustrating is the high number of penalties related to impaired driving—close to 900,” said Andrew Cartmell, president and CEO of SGI in a press release. “There’s simply no excuse for drinking and driving…” He went on to say, “when there are so many options for getting home safely,” but I think he should have just left it at that.

There is simply no excuse for drinking and driving… period.

Thirty of forty years ago, you might have been able to make a case for ignorance, a lot of cops didn’t even take it seriously but in 2014, it is one of the most high profile public awareness issues we have, the penalties have gotten tougher and tougher and we have robust statistics to back it up.

And the statistics are appalling. The number one cause of death in people aged 15 to 24 is vehicle collisions and more often than not, alcohol is involved. The ramifications are unacceptable.

People really ought to be ashamed of themselves. In fact, just about every single person is… after the fact, when they have to stand up in court. They ought to be ashamed of themselves the minute they think about putting their key in the ignition.

Of course, alcohol is the great impairer of judgement not only impairing the driver’s ability to drive properly, but even to make the decision of whether or not they should.

I’m not usually as black and white about crime, but this one is so devastating to society, there really is no excuse. Unfortunately, I don’t think the laws are enough. It’s already a Criminal Code offence carrying stiff fines, jail by a third offence, forfeiture of licence and now, even vehicle seizure.

Yet day in and day out—515 in July is roughly 17 a day—people are making one of the stupidest choices they can make.

Are we our brothers’ keepers? When it comes to drunk driving, I’m going to say yes we are because there are more of our brothers and sisters out there in danger every time a drunk gets behind the wheel.

It falls on all of us to prevent drunk driving. People have gotten much better about it asking, for example, if a friend is okay to drive. But when they say ‘yes,’ we tend to wash our hands of it.

Bartenders and wait staff at bars, even the general public, are getting better about reporting it too. It seems it is becoming more frequent when I hear the details in court that someone has called police when they suspect someone is driving drunk.

Most people are now familiar with the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I am going to suggest it takes a village to prevent drunk driving.

We may not ever be able to completely eradicate this problem, but every one of us needs to get our heads out of the sand and start doing something about it.



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