York police launch annual holiday RIDE campaign amid ongoing efforts to reduce impaired driving

Edward Lake and Jennifer Neville-Lake attend the launch of York Regional Police's annual holiday RIDE campaign. Global News

Family members who have been personally impacted by impaired driving have joined with York Regional Police as the service launched its annual holiday RIDE campaign.

Jennifer Neville-Lake and her husband Edward Lake were in attendance at the program launch in Richmond Hill Wednesday evening.

MADD Canada volunteers distributed cards to drivers who were pulled over, showing a picture of nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, five-year-old brother Harrison and two-year-old sister Milly. The children, along with their 65-year-old grandfather Gary Neville, were killed after a SUV driven by Marco Muzzo crashed into the family’s van in Vaughan. He was convicted of impaired driving-related offences and is currently serving a prison sentence.

READ MORE: Marco Muzzo lack of insight into binge drinking habits led to parole decision

Also in attendance was York Regional Police Supt. Graeme Turl, who now volunteers his time with MADD Canada. Stuart Ellis, Turl’s 28-year-old son-in-law and father-to-be, died after being struck by an alleged impaired driver on Nov. 13, 2017, while he was driving on Highway 48 near Davis Drive in Newmarket.

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Turl said the goal of RIDE (Reducing Impaired Driving Everywhere) is to raise awareness about the tragic consequences of impaired driving.

“The effects of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can cause serious ramifications to families, to everyone … they just need to understand the implications of their actions,” he told Global News.

“If by not doing it, and it puts us out of having to do this RIDE, it would be a wonderful thing.”

READ MORE: New Ontario mom relives losing husband in wake of deadly suspected impaired driving crashes

Turl said Ellis’ death has totally changed his perspective when it comes to the effects of driving while impaired.

“I’ve spent my career enforcing the law, dealing with it. I’ve been on that side of the road making those arrests,” he said.

“Actually knowing the effects of having a close family member killed because of impaired driving just hits it home that much harder. It doesn’t just affect one person, it affects a whole family and multitudes of other people. It changes your life around completely.”

Const. Andy Pattenden said police conduct RIDE lane inspections year-round, but from now until New Year’s Day, he said officers will be out day and night doing spot checks.

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READ MORE: Keswick man charged with impaired driving for second time in less than a month

“This is a problem that year after year continues to increase. It’s not going away,” he said, while encouraging the public to be vigilant.

“We really need the public’s help. If you spot a suspected impaired driver, please call 911. It is a crime in progress. We need to get these people off our streets.”

Pattenden said five people have died this year in collisions that are alcohol- or drug-related. He said more than 1,200 charges have been laid for impaired-related offences.

More than a month after recreational cannabis use became legal, Pattenden also highlighted new detection equipment and field training officers in an effort to crack down on those who may be driving while high.

York Regional Police’s campaign comes days after Toronto police launched their holiday initiative.

Meanwhile, Turl said he would like to see stiffer penalties for impaired-driving offences.

“People need to understand the cause and effect. You get arrested and convicted of impaired driving, you should pay a penalty and it shouldn’t just be a slap on the wrist of a fine,” he said.

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“They need to be aware of their actions.”

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