Saskatchewan takes home 2 national awards for fighting impaired driving

National awards from MADD Canada were given to Corman Park police and SGI for their efforts in fighting impaired driving in Saskatchewan. Supplied

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada has bestowed two national awards for efforts to fight impaired driving in Saskatchewan.

The Robert M. Solomon Excellence in Public Policy Award is going to the Corman Park Police Service (CPPS). The award recognizes a volunteer or group that has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of MADD Canada’s public policy initiatives to strengthen impaired driving laws.

The CPPS was nominated for its overall commitment and dedication to stopping impaired drivers in its rural municipality and for mandatory alcohol screening at all traffic stops.

“In 2018, federal law was introduced that it allowed a mandatory screening and Corman Park took that to heart and implemented it,” MADD Saskatoon president Bonny Stevenson said.

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“They definitely do it. I’ve worked check stops with them and I’ve watched them. And each and every one of those guys that I have worked with are pretty awesome, the way they approach people and they get results.”

Six CPPS officers had a combined 223 impaired driving arrests in 2020.

“I think their numbers speak for themselves.… That’s 223 impaired drivers taken off the road thanks to Corman Park,” Stevenson said.

“In fact, Corman Park actually had the highest rate of impaired driver apprehensions in Saskatchewan.”

Click to play video: 'Why is the fight against impaired driving important in Saskatchewan?'
Why is the fight against impaired driving important in Saskatchewan?

Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) was also recognized nationally with the 2021 Citizen of Distinction Award. MADD Canada nominated the Crown corporation for its contributions to raising awareness about the dangers of impaired driving.

“(SGI) is very deserving. I’ll be honest, other (MADD) chapters across Canada are a bit envious of the relationship we have with SGI and all the great things that we do together. We’re very fortunate,” Stevenson said.

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Minister Responsible for SGI Don Morgan said the fight against impaired driving in the province is an important one.

“Saskatchewan has historically had some of the worst safety records in Canada and we think that’s absolutely unacceptable to have high numbers,” he said.

“Going back to 2009, we’ve had 1,590 collisions involving impaired drivers and 889 injuries and 65 deaths. In 2020, which is the most recent full year, the number of collisions was down to 717, injuries down to 386 and fatalities down to 36.

“In 2020, our numbers are down by 35 per cent from the average across the preceding years.”

Morgan said progress is being made with the help of families who share stories of losing loved ones to impaired drivers.

“Our statistics have gone down in the past years but I would give credit to the Van der Vorst family, the Stevenson family. These people have gone through one of the most emotional tragedies that you could possibly go through, the death of a family member or as in the Van der Vorst case, losing four in one accident,” he said.

“Our numbers are coming down and continuing to come down. One death is one too many. So we’ve got a lot of work left to do, but it’s going in the right direction.”

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Lou and Linda Van der Vorst won the Robert M. Solomon Excellence in Public Policy Award in 2020. Following a collision involving a drunk driver just north of Saskatoon on Jan. 3, 2016, the Van de Vorsts lost Jordan, his wife Chanda and the couple’s children: two-year-old McGuire and five-year-old Kamryn.

Stevenson, whose son was killed in a drunk driving crash, said there’s still a lot of work to do in the province.

“In 2013, when we lost our son Quinn, it opened our eyes to a lot of things. First of all, you deal with the loss of a son, a 17-year-old young boy with his whole life in front of him,” she said.

“It’s something that is so preventable. It’s a death that should just never happened because especially in Saskatoon or any other city, I mean, to get a safe ride home is so easy.

“My goodness. Pick up the phone, call your mom and dad. I’m sure mom would never be disappointed to get woken up at 3 a.m. in the morning because their son or daughter needed a ride home. But I tell you, I can tell them about getting woke up at 5:30 a.m. in the morning to find out your son is deceased.”

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Click to play video: 'Work being done to fight impaired driving in Saskatchewan'
Work being done to fight impaired driving in Saskatchewan

Morgan said the provincial government will be working to crack down on impaired drivers next legislative session.

“We also know that we need to increase enforcement and tighten our legislation. And we’re going to continue to look at what we do with our legislation to try and increase penalties … and wanting to take the most aggressive stance, especially for the ones that are multiple or repeat offenders. Absolutely unacceptable to have to come back two and three and four times for impaired convictions,” he said.

“You will see and hear more of it on impaired drivers as well as distracted drivers. Those are the areas where it’s costing lives in our province and it’s unnecessary.”

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