The Durham Regional Police Service’s Festive RIDE campaign is in its third week and so far the number of people drinking and driving is fairly consistent with last year’s numbers.

Sixteen people were charged with drinking and driving offences last week. By comparison, 23 people faced similar charges during Week 3 of the campaign last year.

What’s especially startling about this year’s campaign, though, is the fact that two off-duty police officers have been charged with drinking and driving.

On Nov. 23 an off-duty officer was charged after a car was driven into a tree and abandoned. And just last week another off-duty officer was charged after being stopped by colleagues on RIDE duty.

Given the years of public awareness campaigns police departments across the GTA have conducted, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving commercials running regularly on television and the more punitive drunk-driving laws there’s no excuse for a driver to get behind the wheel of a car when intoxicated. But when a police officer is charged with drinking and driving that runs counter to the message DRPS is sending to the public. Years of hard work done by the police can be erased by the poor decision of one off-duty officer. When two officers are involved in two separate incidents though it shakes the confidence of the people the police are sworn to protect.

We are all judged by our actions but none more so than police officers. The public doesn’t care if an officer charged with drinking and driving was off-duty. When something like this happens it makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Despite these isolated incidents, DRPS will continue its Festive RIDE campaign in an effort to keep our streets safe for everyone. This isn’t something they do just during the holidays, it’s a program the police do throughout the year and for that they deserve credit.

We can all do better when it comes to spreading the message about drinking and driving. Public awareness campaigns help but parents should talk to their children, teachers should talk to their students, we should all talk to one another about doing the right things when it comes to drinking.

By all means, celebrate the holidays but do so responsibly. If you’re drinking, you’re not driving. Call a cab, use a designated driver, take public transit or walk. Just don’t get behind the wheel of an automobile.

We all have a duty to lead by example and do the right thing.

Source: Metroland Media Group Ltd., Durham Region Division