Red Ribbon campaign kicks off for holiday season

POIGNANT REMINDER - Aleta Neville

With wishes for a holiday season free from impaired driving crashes, the Red Deer &

District chapter of MADD kicked off their 18th annual Red Ribbon campaign on Monday.

Project Red Ribbon is a two-month campaign during the holiday season to make people more aware of the incidence of impaired driving.

Aleta Neville, president of the local chapter of MADD, says, “We can never remind motorists too often of the dangers of impaired driving. Speaking as a parent who’s lost a child and speaking for all the families who’ve lost a loved one, our lives are changed forever. We are left broken and you cannot fix it.

“The pain never goes away and in time you learn to become good actors and put on a good front in public. Celebrations, parties and family gatherings are so difficult to attend now. For all of us, there will always be one empty place at the table, laughter missing and a voice missing.”

Neville lost her 21-year-old son Brent to an impaired driver in 2006.

People and businesses participate in Project Red Ribbon by tying a red ribbon to a visible location on their car, or attaching one to their keychain. Businesses are asked to display red ribbon coin boxes in their store or workplace for donations. Every year the local chapter distributes thousands and thousands of ribbons to remind people to be safe and sober. Across Canada the Red Ribbon campaign has been active for 23 years, supported by local police forces and Allstate Insurance, and has distributed millions of ribbons.

“It’s all about education and awareness,” says Neville. “It’s not that we are asking people to not drink, we are just asking people to drink responsibly, to have a designed driver, to take a cab or public transit, or sleep over. Don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking and for goodness’ sake don’t be a passenger in a car driven by someone who’s been drinking.

“If you suspect someone is drinking and driving call 911 and report them. You could save a life, even that of someone you love. We hope our efforts today will save a life, that our holiday season will be free of impaired driving tragedies and senseless death and injuries.”

Despite continued publicity and educational messages and campaigns the number of deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers is still appalling. On average four Canadians are killed and 200 are injured every day. One in three victims are under the age of 25. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 25-year-olds and alcohol is a factor in almost half those crashes. Teenagers between 16 and 19 are 15 times more likely to die per kilometre than their parents.

RCMP Sgt. Bob Bell, in charge of municipal traffic services in Red Deer, says virtually every time they conduct a checkstop, they still get five or six impaired drivers.

The local chapter of MADD will be holding a candlelight vigil for the victims of impaired drivers on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Luke’s Church.

acryderman@reddeerexpress.com

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