Everyone has seen the television ads and they’ve heard the statistics — but organizers of the annual Ridin’ MADD event say the number of people drinking and driving is still too high.

Amy St. Amour, Timmins chapter volunteer coordinator for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), said by holding a motorcycle ride each year, they hope to raise awareness about the seriousness and consequences of impaired driving.

“It’s part of our Red Ribbon Campaign to drive home the message of impaired driving in our local communities and the effects and impacts that it has on the members of our community,” she explained. “Statistics will tell you that four Canadians are killed every day due to impaired driving accidents. It’s prevalent in our own community, so doing this ride, raising awareness, hitting up other Northern communities, we hope is a reminder to drivers that the effects of impaired driving are great.”

This is the second time the event has been held in Timmins, and about a dozen motorcyclists strapped on their helmets and took to the streets in support of the cause this past Saturday.

The group departed from Mike’s Restaurant around 10 a.m. and rode off toward Elk Lake along Highway 144, cutting across to Highway 560 and then riding through Kirkland Lake before heading back to Timmins in time for dinner.

St. Amour said she was glad to see the turnout had increased from last year and hopes it will continue to grow going forward.

“We want to see the statistics get better, but they don’t, so we’re hoping that every year, with every event we have, people will think twice about drinking and driving,” she said. “This year, we’ve got more riders so the message is out there. People know we’re riding. People also know that instead of just talking about impaired driving in cars, as motorcyclists, this is a really important topic for us as well. It’s a really great way for us to get out and support the message.”

Marc Depatie, a former OPP officer who is currently serving an interim media spokesman for the Timmins Police, was one of the riders who felt passionately about the cause.

“Given my previous experience in law enforcement, sadly, I’ve seen the detrimental effects of impaired driving — the collisions, the lives affected. It has an impact on everyone, sometimes for years to come,” he said. “Police officers tend to see it first-hand so that in mind, I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to participate in this program to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving.”

He said the local police force is having an “average year” in terms of the number of impaired driving incidents — something that he laments he is neither comfortable with, nor wishes to see continue.

“Sadly, there is a small but persistent segment of the population who just simply refuse to acknowledge that impaired driving is a crime,” he said. “This is a preventable crime, it’s a crime of choice and people who choose to take to the wheel after they’ve had too much to drink are placing themselves and others at needless risk. We’re hopeful that this will give people pause for thought when they are out celebrating that they do the right thing and act responsibly to make their community a safer place.”

He stressed that if there is any doubt as to whether an individual is sober enough to drive, the best bet is to not get behind the wheel at all.

“Anyone who is considering whether or not they can risk it or if they have had too much to drink is in no position to make that decision, only a sober person can make that decision,” he noted. “Operating a motor vehicle takes all of your attention, all of your faculties and they have to be as sharp as possible so you reach your destination safely.”

Although the local MADD chapter does provide support for victims of impaired driving, and the ride’s main purpose is to raise awareness, St. Amour said the ride also served as an opportunity for motorcyclists to get together and take their bikes for a spin.

“For me personally, being involved in this cause is my way of sharing the message and keeping it strong in my own community here in Timmins,” she said. “And it’s beautiful, it’s sunny, it’s summer and we get to meet a bunch of great new people on motorcycles and share in that, as well.”

The group hopes the ride will become an annual staple in the community and encourage more riders to attend next year and to participate in MADD’s other fundraising ventures throughout the year.

Source: Timmins Press