As we approach the holiday season of convivial celebrations with friends and family, the question isn’t whether or not you’re going to enjoy those moments with a drink in hand. The big question is what vehicle you’d like to get a ride in after.
That was how representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) posed the question last week at Edmonton Police headquarters, with four vehicles parked out front: a cab, a police cruiser, an ambulance and a hearse.
Consider the point driven home.
The grassroots organization put on the event to remind everyone that even one drink consumed is too many before getting behind the wheel, and that the only safe option to get home is to get a ride from someone else no matter what time of day.
Elaine Arnold shared her story of being the victim of an impaired driving collision at perhaps the most unexpected time of day for such an event: when she was on her way to work at 7:30 a.m. on a February morning several years ago.
“A drunk driver blew through a stop sign, hit the right side of my car, went through it and pushed me into a house. If he had hit me on the other side, I wouldn’t be here,” she began, her voice showing the anguish and anger of her injuries.
“I was in a coma for the first three months and I don’t remember a thing. I don’t remember before the accident. I don’t remember until I left the hospital about seven months later. All my nerves on my right side, my eye, my arm. Everything was just mush.”
The accident internally decapitated her, she said, meaning her spinal cord was severed. Thankfully, medical professionals were able to fuse her spine with a steel rod and the rehabilitation gave her the ability to walk, though she can never turn her head. Her memory was deeply affected by brain injuries, too. Holding her head up with one hand to ease the discomfort of the rod’s position, she talked about how she will carry the impact of that moment every day for the rest of her life.
It’s a stark and vivid reminder to make the right choice when going out to drink. Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee was on hand to repeat the message, as were Edmonton Fire Rescue Services’ Deputy Fire Chief Brad Boekstra, and Shane Inkster, the director of tactical operations for Alberta Health Services’ Emergency Medical Services. They were all wearing red ribbons as reminders for everyone to keep sober driving at top of mind.
Project Red Ribbon runs right through the holiday season. MADD was handing out ribbons and magnetic decals for people to put on their vehicles to symbolize their commitment to drive safe and sober.
They asked everyone to never drive impaired by alcohol, cannabis or other drugs, or even ride with an impaired driver. They also said it’s easy to plan ahead by taking a cab or public transportation or establishing a designated driver within your group. Even staying the night is a viable option. They also reminded people to call 911 to report suspected impaired drivers.
“Impaired driving takes a devastating toll on individuals, families and communities, but these tragedies can be prevented if everyone does their part,” stated MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie. “Driving impaired is never worth the risk.”
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Stats and Tips
- Hundreds of Canadians are killed and tens of thousands are injured annually from impaired driving collisions
- Impaired driving is the #1 criminal cause of death in Canada
10 Possible Signs of an Impaired Driver
- Driving unreasonably fast, slow or at an inconsistent speed
- Drifting in and out of lanes
- Tailgating and changing lanes frequently
- Making exceptionally wide turns
- Changing lanes or passing without sufficient clearance
- Overshooting or stopping well before stop signs or stop lights
- Disregarding signals and lights
- Approaching signals or leaving intersections too quickly or slowly
- Driving without headlights, failing to lower high beams or leaving turn signals on
- Driving with windows open in cold or inclement weather
What To Do If You Observe a Potential Impaired Driver
- Always maintain a safe distance from any driver you suspect might be impaired and always wear your seatbelt
- Call 911 (If you are driving, pull over first if you can safely do so)
- State your location
- Vehicle description including licence plate and colour, make/model of vehicle
- Direction of travel for the vehicle
- Description of driver
Courtesy of MADD Canada (madd.ca)