WINNIPEG — In the wake of a deadly weekend on Manitoba’s roads, police and anti-impaired driving advocates are calling for change.
On Saturday, within a 10-hour period, three separate incidents left three people dead and 11 injured. RCMP said in at least two of the incidents, alcohol is a contributing factor. The deaths are a stark reminder to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Winnipeg’s Chapter president Melody Bodnarchuk.
“I’m heartbroken,” Bodnarchuk said about this weekend’s fatal incidents.
Bodnarchuk’s nephew, Brett Yasinsky, 22, was killed after a drunk driver struck his car in November 2010. The driver, Brad Skawretko was handed a two-and-a-half-year sentence for the crime.
Yasinsky’s death is not rare — according to MADD, at least one Manitoban dies in an impaired driving incident every five days.
“Almost everybody knows somebody who’s lost somebody to impaired driving. That’s crazy, we don’t need that,” Bodnarchuk said.
The RCMP said alcohol or drugs plays a role in 40 per cent of driving fatalities in the province. The issue of impaired driving remains a big one across western Canada as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have among the highest rates in the country of impaired driving crash rates per 100,000 people.
Bodnarchuk said western Canada needs to re-assess what is culturally acceptable, in order to truly change driving behaviour.
Rates of impaired driving in Canada also stand out on an international level — Canada has the one of the worst drunk-driving death rates among developed nations. Thrity-four per cent of crash fatalities in Canada are linked to alcohol; a rate that is higher than the United States, New Zealand, Australia and France.
Manitoba RCMP’s Traffic Services called the weekend’s incidents “shocking” and said their efforts to catch impaired drivers remains a constant issue.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Ed Moreland, officer in charge of Traffic Services for Manitoba RCMP.
Moreland said officers are working as hard as they can on the roads but that they also depend on Manitobans to call 911 in the event they spot an impaired driver.
“Of the 1,500 to 2,000 drivers we take off the road each year, approximately half of those arrest are a result of a member of the public calling 911.”
“I want to see that number increase.”