A message that never gets old

With the holiday season approaching and plans for parties taking shape, the reminder to not drink and drive is as timely as ever.

While it’s obviously important to never get behind the wheel after drinking, this season tends to be an exceptionally crucial time to get the message out.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) launched their 18th annual Red Ribbon campaign this week, and despite the barrage of anti-drunk driving initiatives over the years, the statistics continue to show a grim picture.

On average four Canadians are killed and 200 are injured every day because of impaired drivers. The impact on young people is particularly disturbing, as 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.

This year in Red Deer, two families were tragically impacted by the actions of people who chose to get behind the wheel after drinking. Brad and Krista Howe, two well-respected Red Deerians, lost their lives this past February, and left behind five young children and a devastated community.

Anouluk ‘Jeffrey’ Chanminaraj, a 13-year-old boy, was killed on Canada Day as he and his siblings were on their way to watch the fireworks at Bower Ponds. So much potential again needlessly lost.

Both of these tragedies were of course senseless and entirely preventable. What will it take to get people to understand the possible consequences of their actions?

MADD officials believe bolstering public awareness is key to helping change behaviours.

This past spring, the organization introduced RID (Report Impaired Drivers), a campaign urging local drivers to call 911 when they see someone they think may be driving impaired. The program marks collaboration between RCMP K Division, Alberta Health Services and MADD Canada.

The initiative has also been shown to hike arrest rates for impaired driving by 30% in other regions of Canada.

For Project Red Ribbon, which was first launched 23 years ago, folks are encouraged to participate by tying a red ribbon to a visible location on their car.

Businesses are also asked to get involved by displaying red ribbon coin boxes for donations. Every year, thousands of ribbons are distributed to remind people to be safe and sober.

We can only hope the momentum behind campaigns like RID and Project Red Ribbon get the attention they deserve and wield the impact that is so desperately needed.