On the heels of several high profile criminal cases involving impaired driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is ready to launch the latest edition of Project Red Ribbon.
It’s the 28th anniversary of the campaign, challenging residents to commit to staying sober behind the wheel.
“We hand out red ribbons throughout the season as a reminder to not drink and drive, and as a tribute to all those who have been injured or killed by impaired drivers,” said Mary Rodrigues, President of MADD’s London chapter.
Those victims include 18-year-old Andrea Christidis, a first year Western University who died in hospital days after she was hit by an out of control minivan on October 7th. She was walking home from a late night study lab when the minivan jumped the curb and hit her.
24-year-old Jared DeJong is charged with impaired driving causing death, and dangerous driving causing death. He’s been out on bail since a day after the fatal collision.
23-year-old Jan Broz was also killed on Western University campus in crash back in January that involved alcohol. 24-year-old Elton Sabino was sentenced on Thursday to 2 years less a day in jail in relation to the crash.
While Sabino was convicted of dangerous driving charges, medical evidence suggested he had alcohol and marijuana in his system the night of the crash.
Early last month, 18-year-old Logan Clark died in a single vehicle crash near Listowel. The driver, Cullen Donegan from Huron East, and passenger Wyatt Stevenson, both 18, were airlifted to hospital with life threatening injuries.
Donegan has since been released from hospital, and is now facing several charges including impaired driving causing death.
Rodrigues finds this recent trend very troubling.
“We’ve seen a huge spike in impaired driving in Ontario, with the number of charges being laid lately, it is kind of disturbing,” she said.
That’s why MADD supports mandatory roadside screening, and hopes to lobby politicians to roll out the legislation in Canada.
“With the brand new government and a lot of new MPs in and around the province, we need to go to those MPs and start the conversations now and get them on board with the mandatory roadside screening,” she said. “In a lot of domesticated countries, in Europe and in Australia, it’s proven to reduce impaired driving deaths and injuries by 25 percent on average.”
As the law stands now, police can only demand a roadside breath sample if they have reasonable grounds to suspect the driver has been drinking. They must rely on behavioural clues and observations.
According to MADD, the problem is that people not always exhibit obvious signs of intoxication, particularly those who routinely drink and drive. As a result, the majority of drinking drivers go undetected at sobriety checkpoints. In fact, data indicates a person would have to drive impaired, on average, once a week, every week, for more than 3 years before being charged with impaired driving offence, and for more than 6 years before being convicted.
Every year, impaired driving claims between 1,250 and 1,500 lives and caused close to 64,000 injuries.
Police Chief John Pare will be on hand for Friday’s Project Red Ribbon campaign launch at the Covent Garden Market at 11 a.m.