With the holiday season fast approaching and plans for parties taking shape, the reminder to not drink or 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 19th annual Red Ribbon Campaign last week and despite the barrage of anti-drunk driving initiatives over the years, the statistics continue to show a grim picture.
In 2008, it was estimated that 2,694 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada. MADD Canada estimates that at a minimum, 1,162 of these fatalities were impairment-related.
Young people have the highest rates of traffic death and injury per capita among all age groups and the highest death rate per kilometre driven among all drivers under 75 years of age.
More 19-year-olds die or are seriously injured than any other age group, according to MADD statistics. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 25-year-olds, and alcohol is a factor in 45% of those crashes.
Those in the 16- to 25-year-old age range constituted 13.2% of the Canadian population in 2006, but accounted for 33.4% of the total alcohol-related crash deaths.
MADD officials believe that bolstering public awareness is key to changing public behaviours. That’s true, but much more severe penalties would also likely be a deterrent to impaired driving. Those convicted are let off far too lightly considering the fall-out of their actions.
Another campaign MADD has introduced to fight impaired driving is RIDD (Report Impaired Drivers), which was launched last year and urges local drivers to call 911 when they see someone they think may be driving impaired.
The program marked a 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 24 years ago, folks are encouraged to participate by tying a red ribbon to a visible location on their cars.
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 this get the attention they deserve, and wield the impact that is so desperately needed.