Im­paired driv­ing still a prob­lem

The Compass - - OPINION -

On Thurs­day, RCMP of­fi­cers in this re­gion hauled away two male mo­torists for al­leged im­paired driv­ing. The first in­ci­dent took place in Old Per­li­can, while the sec­ond was on Roaches Line, just off Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way.

It’s not ev­ery­day that po­lice in the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Dis­trict nab two im­paired driv­ers in one day, es­pe­cially on a week­day. And what’s even more trou­bling is the amount of al­co­hol al­leged to have been con­sumed by the driv­ers.

Tests re­vealed the male ac­cused in Old Per­li­can had a con­cen­tra­tion of 160 mil­ligrams of al­co­hol per 100 millil­itres of blood. That’s twice the le­gal limit of 80 mil­ligrams.

In the sec­ond in­ci­dent, which in­volved a sin­gle mo­tor ve­hi­cle col­li­sion, the driver’s blood al­co­hol con­tent was four times the le­gal limit, or 320 mil­ligrams. An RCMP news re­leased de­scribed the man’s level of im­pair­ment as “shock­ing.”

The only re­as­sur­ing thing about these in­ci­dents is that in both cases, con­cerned cit­i­zens made re­ports to the po­lice. We can also be thank­ful there were no in­juries or, even worse, deaths.

So­ci­ety has spo­ken very force­fully on this is­sue, and the mes­sage is clear: im­paired driv­ing, and its of­ten dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences, should not be tol­er­ated.

The public up­roar has led to greater en­force­ment by po­lice and stiffer penal­ties from the courts. And there is now a grow­ing call to give po­lice the right to per­form ran­dom breath­a­lyzer tests at road­side stops.

But de­spite all the ef­fort and daily grief and loss, the prob­lem persists. Ac­cord­ing to MADD Canada, im­paired driv­ing claims be­tween 1,250 and 1,500 lives and causes more than 63,000 in­juries in Canada each year. That’s a jaw-drop­ping statis­tic, since 100 per cent of these tragedies are pre­ventable.

We only need to read some re­cent head­lines to know the dan­gers.

Shane Mercer was killed in De­cem­ber 2010 in Wabush af­ter be­ing struck by a drunk driver. Mercer’s fi­ancé, Leisa Pen­ney, was also se­verely in­jured, and will for­ever carry the scars — both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally — of that tragic in­ci­dent.

The driver, Jeremy Reid, was re­cently given a four-year sen­tence, and had his driv­ing priv­i­leges re­voked for nine years upon his re­lease from prison. The sen­tenc­ing was fol­lowed by an out­cry from Mercer’s fam­ily, and those call­ing for even harsher treat­ment of those who drink and drive.

We should use these lat­est in­ci­dents in our re­gion as a fur­ther re­minder of the po­ten­tial con­se­quences of im­paired driv­ing, and the pain and suf­fer­ing it can cause. Let’s stay vig­i­lant when it comes to re­port­ing sus­pected im­paired driv­ers, and do ev­ery­thing in our power to pre­vent fam­ily and friends from get­ting be­hind the wheel af­ter con­sum­ing al­co­hol. It’s a stupid prac­tice that could ruin yours and some­one else’s life.

It’s a mes­sage that has made its way into the sub­con­scious of most of us, but the sta­tis­tics and the painful head­lines prove we still have a ways to go be­fore the prob­lem is solved and these mean­ing­less deaths and in­juries are pre­vented.

— Terry Roberts

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