TORONTO – If you think you can take a nap after some drinks at the office Christmas party before driving home, think again. Police are setting up more RIDE checks earlier in the day to stop drivers trying to skirt evening check points.
“What we’re doing is we’re trying to raise the public awareness,” Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said. “So people know the importance of making the proper decisions. If you’ve been drinking we don’t want you driving.”
The OPP and local law enforcement will be setting up spot checks to find impaired drivers along major routes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) during the month of December.
Not only will they be active and visible in the evening but officers plan to be out during the day as well.
“We do that all the time,’ Schmidt said. “I know people have been through these RIDE checks consistently and they know that we’re out there all through the day.”
Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (0.08) is a criminal offence. It takes, on average, five hours and 20 minutes for the alcohol to completely clear your system. That means, if you were drinking until 2:00 am, then got up to go to work at 6:00 am, you may still be impaired.
For 27 years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has rolled out the Red Ribbon Campaign to encourage people not to drink and drive.
Carolyn Swinson lost her 27-year-old son in 1993 after he was struck by a driver with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. Her father was killed by a drunk driver 12 years earlier. She has since dedicated her life to the cause.
“My heart is never in Christmas the same way that it was before we lost our son,” she said. “It’s over 20 years but it’s still there. The pain actually never goes away.”
Swinson now conducts victim support meetings once a month for people who have lost someone or other who have been severely injured.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see what those people have to go through,” she said. “Particularly at this time of year when we’ve got Christmas coming up.”
Not only will police be on the lookout for drivers who may have been drinking but anyone who has been using drugs as well.
“We find these issues all through the day,” Schmidt said. “If we didn’t have any success finding impaired drivers during the day, you know we would use our resources elsewhere possibly.”
Impaired driving continues to be one of the leading causes of injury and death on provincial highways.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in Ontario over the last decade and more than 50,000 people were injured in collisions involving a driver who had been drinking.