November 27, 2020

For the first time in more than 30 years, free public transit won’t be made available to people in Saskatchewan on New Year’s Eve.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance’s (SGI) is suspending its Wing in the New Year program due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting large gatherings, in an announcement made on Friday.

The initiative encourages residents to use its bus services rather than getting behind the wheel impaired. Each year, the service is available in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert.

“It’s definitely a difficult decision. I think everybody is disappointed in the current situation with COVID-19 and it has changed and disrupted so many things in our daily lives,” said SGI spokesperson Tyler McMurchy.

McMurchy points to many other options such as having a designated driver, calling a sober person in your household or bubble, taking a taxi or rideshare, or staying over.

“There’s always a better option. We know a lot of people are staying in which is probably the safest option,” McMurchy said.

“If people do find themselves out of their homes on New Year’s Eve or any other night and choosing to indulge in alcohol or cannabis or any other impaired substances there’s still multiple options to get home safely.”

It’s a message mirrored by MADD Canada.

The organization’s annual Project Red Ribbon awareness campaign recently kicked off in Regina and Saskatoon, placing an emphasis on sober driving throughout the upcoming holiday season.

“If we all do our part, we can prevent these preventable, horrible and heartbreaking events,” said MADD Regina’s president Dawn Brodt-Tatham on Nov. 23.

“Let’s all do our part and make our roads safer this holiday season and throughout the year.”

In 2019, 21 people lost their lives in Saskatchewan as a result of impaired driving and 332 were injured.

Between 2009 and 2018, deaths due to impaired driving averaged 54 annually, with 595 injuries.