August 4, 2018

Over the last three years there have been fewer and fewer impaired driving collisions over the August long weekend in Saskatchewan. This year there are a few campaigns aimed at keeping the momentum going.

MADD Saskatchewan, Crown corporations and a bar franchise are using the hashtag #howareyougettinghome on social media this weekend.

The collaborative effort is being called Sask0804, a play on the date and the blood-alcohol content limits in the province of .08 and .04.

“We’ve really been hammering it home when it comes to awareness campaigns and trying to be very visible in the community,” said Michelle Okere, regional manager with MADD Saskatchewan.

The Canadian Brewhouse franchises in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw will run MADD advertisements on their TVs. Police officers will be stopping in to encourage people to have a safe ride home and designated drivers will receive free non-alcoholic beverages.

Earlier this week, the province announced another pilot, “Drive Dollars,” wherein the government will match some money a bar patron sets aside for a safe ride home. The initiative will be at Victoria’s Tavern from the August long weekend until Labour Day.

“You are seeing establishments get involved in a way that we definitely haven’t seen before in Saskatchewan. It’s been good to see that shift and see them be partners in tackling this issue,” Okere said.

The campaign is among several launched in the province with the involvement of police and the government.

Another involves police officers visiting bars to hand out so-called “positive tickets,” where sober drivers could win one of 25 $150 Visa gift cards.

Impaired driving deaths decreasing

Impaired driving over the August long weekend has been decreasing, according to SGI. In 2014 there were 23 collisions resulting in 16 injuries and six deaths. Since then there have been fewer collisions each year and no deaths from 2015 to 2017.

In May, Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) reported there were 39 impaired driving-related deaths on Saskatchewan roads in 2017 — a 32 per cent decrease from the previous year.

Thirty-four of those deaths involved alcohol-impaired driving while the rest were attributed to drug-impaired driving, the Crown corporation said.

“We saw some really good statistics come out with SGI back in May,” Okere said.

“We saw a significant decrease in the amount of impaired driving related fatalities the previous year and we’re really trying to build off that momentum and move forward in this way.”

Earlier this year, SGI said there were a total of 102 deaths on the province’s roads in 2017 — the lowest number in more than 60 years, according to the insurer.

MADD growing, police involvement increasing

In the last year, MADD has opened a chapter in Regina to go along with two established chapters in Prince Albert and Meadow Lake. Saskatoon has a community leader group.

Okere called the growth “really phenomenal.”

She said police agencies have been major partners as well. This weekend MADD volunteers will be joining police in high-visibility check stops.