November 5, 2019
Only hours after a man was killed in a suspected impaired driving collision, a red ribbon was cut to symbolize the start of an annual drunk driving prevention campaign in Calgary.
Emergency crews and ambassadors for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) addressed the tragedy of impaired driving collisions while the flame of a memorial candle flickered Tuesday morning. Together, they introduced the 19th Project Red Ribbon campaign in the city, amplifying a message about the dangers of impaired driving during the holiday season.
Earlier the same morning, a 32-year-old passenger was killed in a single-vehicle crash after a BMW left the road, tearing through a chain-link fence and stopping at the bottom of a grassy slope on 16th Avenue N.E. Calgary police said speed, alcohol and drugs are all suspected as factors. Officers are also investigating speed, alcohol and drugs as potential factors in a fatal collision on Bow Bottom Trail on Sunday.
“Already this year, we’re at 16 fatal collisions in Calgary and we know that half of them are ones that involved impaired driving. We know that number is going to increase before the end of the year so once again, it’s something we’re aware of and we have to be vigilant about getting this message out,” said Staff Sgt. Dale Seddon with the Calgary police traffic unit.
About nine impaired fatalities by this time of the year isn’t higher than average, but it’s typical for that number to rise during the holiday season because of the “celebratory spirit,” according to Seddon.
“This is on track with what we see; the numbers aren’t higher than years previous but we need the community’s support in spreading the message that this is an intolerable thing,” said the officer.
The red ribbons are meant to be placed on vehicles, jackets and backpacks as a reminder to plan for a safe, sober ride home and report impaired driving. Though there are many causes for vehicle crashes, impaired driving is 100 per cent preventable.
Calgary fire Chief Steve Dongworth said the fire service is often first to the scene of a collision, so they see how impaired driving destroys lives.
“It affects the whole community, bystanders, children, family members and complete strangers,” said Dongworth. “We know the injuries and deaths related to impaired driving are 100 per cent preventable, given that the driver had other choices.”
Darren Sandbeck, chief of Calgary’s AHS Emergency Medical Services, said there are too many other responsible choices for getting home safely for anyone to make the decision to put others’ lives at risk.
Deputy Cmdr. Magni Magnason of the operations team for Calgary 911 said it’s imperative people safely rport impaired driving when they see it.
“With so much at stake and so many people impacted, I urge anyone who suspects an impaired driver on the road to pull over and call 911, or if you witness someone getting behind the wheel who shouldn’t, call 911 when it is safe to do so,” said Magnason.
Denise Dubyk, vice-president of MADD Calgary, lost her son-in-law to a drunk driver in 2000 and has watched her daughter slowly recover from the tragedy. She said everyone can choose to save lives this holiday season by reminding others, reporting impaired driving to police and choosing a safe ride home.
“Driving impaired is never worth the risk,” said Dubyk. “This time of the year, with the holiday season, let’s impress upon everyone to drive safely.”