By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The holiday season is one filled with family, friendship and festivities, but is also a time of year when the number of impaired drivers on the road increases significantly.
Based on data from the past five years, it is expected more than 100 motorists will be charged with impaired-driving related charges during this holiday season, according to Durham Police Chief Paul Martin.
Durham Region Police Service (DRPS) officially launched its annual Festive R.I.D.E. campaign on Nov. 13.
“The number of people who drink around the holiday season increases because of holiday parties we have in our homes and businesses, and now with the recreational use of marijuana, we hope those numbers do not increase,” Martin said at the launch.
Through the Festive R.I.D.E. campaign, Martin says police will stop approximately 10,000 vehicles and he estimated at least 600 roadside breath tests will be administered.
The chief says the most praise need to go to the officers who spend “long, cold, dark nights away from [their] family and friends” in the line of duty.
“You are the best R.I.D.E. team in Ontario, and I can stand behind that. We all owe you a debt of gratitude.”
Last year, DRPS laid 112 charges, an increase from 99 in 2016.
Regional chair Gerri Lynn O’ Connor says there is no excuse for these numbers.
“It’s such a preventable act. No family should endure the pain of an empty chair at the table,” she says. “Each of us has a duty to be mentally alert and capable of a safe journey, and socially responsible of avoiding harming others through our actions.”
The event also marked the launch of MADD Durham Region’s annual Red Ribbon Campaign.
President Sarah Harper says the ribbons serve as a “powerful symbol in the fight against impaired driving.”
“We ask community members to tie them around their cars antennas, purses and briefcases…as a reminder to people of the dangers of drink and driving,” she says.
The ribbons also pay tribute to those who have been killed or injured, and their loved ones who were also affected.
In 2014, Harper’s 19-year-old daughter was ‘catastrophically’ injured in a collision involving an impaired driver.
“We never expected it to happen to us or someone we love. Because of someone else’s selfish decisions, my daughter’s life changed forever,” she says.
Harper reminded those in attendance that crashes involving impaired drivers are never “accidents.”
“If you suspect an impaired driver, don’t hesitate. Please call 911 and report that driver, you may save a life,” she says.