A total of 18 Manitobans have been killed on roadways due to impaired driving as of the end of October — a number the president of the Brandon Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter calls “upsetting.”
As of the end of October, 73 people have been killed on Manitoba roads in 2020 — a significant chunk coming from impaired drivers, according to data from Manitoba Public Insurance. If the trend continues, 2020 will be the second-worst year for deaths over the last five years, coming in behind 2016’s total of 107.
“My sister was killed by an impaired driver, so it’s something that’s upsetting to me to know that there are 18 other families that have gone through what we went through,” MADD Brandon president Danielle Lewis said.
“One is too many … I’m just very upset and hurt for all of those families.”
Two people in Westman have died in collisions related to impaired driving so far this year, MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley said. While the total number is still high in 2020, it is slightly below the average for the past five years to date of 25 deaths.
The pandemic hasn’t resulted in a significant drop in the number of impaired drivers, but the public insurer has seen more serious injuries in the collisions that occur. Smiley said he believes people are driving faster on the roads as there are fewer cars on them due to the pandemic.
One of the common misconceptions among the public is that impaired driving is down this year because the pandemic closed bars and restaurants, Lewis said. That’s not the case, though, as people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking or consuming drugs.
“I think, unfortunately, if it doesn’t happen to you it’s not real for people,” she said.
The Brandon MADD chapter is trying to spread the message that people shouldn’t drive if they are intoxicated, but it’s tough to get some people to understand, Lewis said.
In September, the group unveiled signs around the city highlighting places where impaired drivers were arrested — something MADD is trying to bring to rural areas as well.
“Driving impaired … is a choice. It is a conscious choice that ends lives. There are so many other options — don’t do it,” Lewis said.
Further complicating things heading into the holiday season is that Operation Red Nose will not be running this year.
While the service is usually available to give people a safe ride home from Christmas and New Year’s parties, it will not be operating this year due to the pandemic.
“Because of the restrictions, people shouldn’t really be going out to gatherings as they normally would. But if people do, then they need to find another option,” Lewis said.
“There are still lots of options out there for adults, plan ahead, have a driver … don’t drink, don’t do drugs, walk, taxis are still available, call a friend.”
Smiley echoed this sentiment, saying there are many options other than drinking and driving.
While the current health restrictions bar people from visiting other households or staying overnight, those could change before the holiday party season.
People should also report impaired drivers if they see one, Lewis said. Calling the police is key to getting them off the road.
“It’s a choice that you make, and there are other choices,” she said.
Other than impaired driving, numbers from MPI show at least 16 people have died as a result of distracted driving and 13 from not wearing their seatbelts.