Every year, thousands of Albertans go out to enjoy themselves, have a few drinks or consume some now-legal marijuana, and then get behind the wheel and drive home. That's especially true during holidays.
Perhaps you didn't plan ahead. Perhaps you think it's no big deal, or that it won't hurt just this once. Whatever your reasoning, it's an objectively stupid thing to do, especially when many smarter alternatives exist. Yet statistics show people continue to take this risk at alarming rates.
Early in December, in conjunction with National Impaired Driving Enforcement Day, St. Albert RCMP Traffic Services ran checkstops throughout the city. They laid three charges of alcohol impairment, three charges of impairment over 80 mg % and four provincial roadside suspensions for alcohol.
And in its Q2 report, spanning July 1 to Sept. 30, the RCMP said it recorded 43 offences related to impaired driving. The amount of reported drug-impaired offences more than doubled to 11 from five in the second quarter of 2018.
This season alone, suspected impaired drivers have made headlines for their alleged actions as well. A Spruce Grove school bus driver was arrested in mid-December for impaired operation prior to the bus's scheduled departure time. In late November, a fatal collision near Coalhurst led to an impaired driving-related charge against one of the people involved.
Statistics from the provincial government paint an even worse picture: an average of 6,000 people were convicted of impaired driving in Alberta in each of the past five years.
It's unfortunate and downright alarming that despite the well-known dangers of impaired driving, so many people continue to do it. It would be bad enough if impairment was the only issue on our roads, but it turns out distracted driving remains quite the problem as well. Our local RCMP targeted distracted driving, among other issues such as speeding and following too closely, this year because the annual traffic safety report showed it was one of the major factors in collisions in St. Albert. In the second quarter of this year, 51 per cent of the violation tickets and warnings RCMP issued were for distracted driving. That's 308 tickets and warnings in all.
Education and enforcement are two of the RCMP's strategies for making roadways safe, according to St. Albert RCMP Insp. Pam Robinson.
And while our local police do everything they can to get dangerous drivers off the raods, thankfully we also have tireless community advocates who try to raise awareness and discourage people from committing these crimes. We have a local chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) – a group that tries to bring the dangers of impaired driving home to students and the community at large. Edmonton-area chapters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also recently began their red ribbon campaign – a tribute to those who have lost their lives to impaired drivers, and a grim reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.
Those dangers are all too real to those of us who have been impacted by an impaired driver. So if you see a red ribbon this New Year's Eve, remember what it means. If you drive, do it responsibly and don't drink.