January 4, 2020
Despite Festive RIDE campaigns by police across the Greater Toronto Area, this past holiday season has seen three people killed in the GTA as a result of suspected drunk drivers — a figure that’s concerning to police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada.
“It’s really upsetting that there are people still people taking the risk of getting behind the wheel of a car,” said Carolyn Swinson of MADD Canada. “And it’s heartbreaking for the people who have lost a loved one.”
On New Year’s Eve, a 68-year-old driver died after his car was allegedly hit by a drunk driver near Elgin Mills Rd. and Ninth Line in Markham.
A little over a week prior to the driver’s death, two Centennial College international students were killed when an alleged drunk driver hit them as they were walking on the sidewalk on Progress Ave. near Markham Rd. in Scarborough.
For Swinson, it’s frustrating to know there are still people who don’t get the message regarding the dangers associated with impaired driving.
“It’s hard to understand the mindset that there are people who will take those risks,” said Swinson.
Though Durham Regional Police say there were fewer people charged with impaired driving during the 2019 Festive RIDE campaign compared to the previous year, police spokesman Dave Selby said they are still concerned that anyone would choose to drive while impaired.
Durham police charged 104 drivers with drinking and driving offences during the Festive RIDE campaign — down from 2018’s campaign which nabbed 117 drivers.
“In a way, it’s a positive sign,” Selby said. “You can certainly look at it as a drop, but from our perspective, that’s 104 drivers that shouldn’t be on the road … There are some people out there that are not getting the message.”
While York Regional Police doesn’t yet have numbers from their Festive RIDE campaign as its program just ended Sunday, Const. Laura Nicolle said the number of impaired driving charges issued by police in 2019 rose by 6% compared to the previous year, hitting 1,750.
If there is a silver lining in police efforts, it’s that more people are reporting suspected impaired drivers to police.
“We’ve had a huge increase in people calling 911 to report incidences of impaired driving — over 3,500 calls — which is an increase of 18% from last year,” Nicolle said.
“And these aren’t just from drivers reporting other drivers. They also include liquor store staff, people working at the drive-thru … even family and friends,” Nicolle said.
She credited York Police’s promotion of the Safe Roads … Your Call program, which encouraged residents to call 911 if they suspect an impaired driver.
Though concerns have been raised about impaired driving following the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, both Durham and York police say cannabis-related impairment charges in 2019 were rare as most involved alcohol consumption.