November 25, 2018

What’s it going to take to stop drunk driving?

That’s the question that was asked Saturday morning by frustrated police after yet another bad night on York Region roads.

Eight more people were charged for impaired driving overnight and four more received three-day suspensions.

That comes after a tweet from York Region police that five people had been charged with impaired driving Thursday night, including a 27-year-old man involved in a four-vehicle collision in Newmarket who allegedly blew more than twice the legal limit.

The news was a little better Sunday morning, as one driver was charged with impaired driving the night before.

The arrests led to a warning from York Region police Chief Eric Jolliffe that “innocent lives are being put at risk.”

York Region police kicked off its enhanced festive season RIDE campaign last Wednesday with officers out every day and night until New Year’s Day conducting spot checks and watching for impaired drivers, but the message still doesn’t seem to be getting through.

“As president of MADD York Region and a victim of this senseless act, I am truly disappointed with the numbers,” Katie Apreda said Saturday. “We literally did our kickoff three days ago. I am outraged that the numbers were so high in one night. What are people not understanding? Don’t drive impaired!”

The increase can’t just be attributed to enhanced enforcement, said York Region police Insp. Peter Casey.

“There were a few accidents and general traffic stops,” he said. “This was just during the course of normal duties.”

Impaired driving charges have been on the increase this year, with more than 1,200 so far — and the holiday party season has just begun.

Impaired driving was a factor in five road deaths this year.

Even the very public tragedy involving the Neville-Lake family, four members of which were killed by impaired driver Marco Muzzo in 2015, does not seem to have had an impact.

“We’re not OK with this, are you?” York Region police tweeted Saturday morning. “What’s it going to take to end impaired driving on our roads?”

It takes time for alcohol to dissipate from the blood stream, Casey warned, so if you had double the legal limit in your blood stream and decided to “sleep it off” before driving home, you could still be over the legal limit four to five hours later, he said.

Eating food while drinking may help your stomach feel better, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be impaired, he said. For those with a lower body mass, just a couple of drinks could put you over the limit.

The best approach is to not drink at all or make use of the many options to get home safely, including Uber, Lyft, cabs, public transit, designated drivers and staying overnight.

Make a plan before you head out for the night and if you know you will be drinking, leave the car at home, he advised.

York Region police also warns that just because marijuana is legal, driving under the influence of pot carries the same weight as alcohol. Also, under the Ontario Cannabis Act, marijuana cannot be within reach of the driver.