There is a new campaign underway by SGI to combat impaired driving in Saskatchewan, and it is using a poignant reference to one of the hardest jobs that any police officer or first responder has to do: notifying the next-of-kin of a person’s death in a collision, caused by an impaired driver.
It is true that SGI reported that the deaths and injuries caused by impaired driving decreased in 2017 from the previous year — but like with any journey of consequence, the first steps are not the completion of that journey, and the efforts need to continue on.
In 2017, there were 39 people killed as a result of impaired driving, and 357 injured. Of those who died, 34 were due to alcohol, and five were drug-related.
The five-year average in this province prior to that was 57 deaths a year and 596 injuries from impaired driving-caused collisions.
While clearly there was a marked improvement made, 39 deaths is still too many, and affected all the families, friends and loved ones of those who died, not to mention the loved ones related to the injured, some of whom may have had long-term debilitating effects of those injuries to deal with. Impaired driving is still the top cause of fatalities in Saskatchewan, and as long as that is the case, this is something that has to be addressed.
Thus, Saskatchewan implemented tougher new standards to punish impaired drivers, and with the pending legalization of marijuana on Oct. 17, it will be even more urgent for law enforcement to ensure our roads and highways are safe.
The tougher laws include zero tolerance for drug-impaired offences, and police agencies across the province, and across Canada, have been upgrading their training so they are ready when Oct. 17th rolls around.
The harsher sanctions also provide for stiffer penalties when an impaired driver is arrested, including licence suspension for all drivers, new or experienced, until their charges are dealt with in court, and roadside suspensions and vehicle impoundments if they are caught driving with a child while impaired.
In the meantime, there will still be instances when drivers have to learn the hard way, and a police officer will have to go to the doorstep of an unsuspecting family member, to inform them of a death or injury in a serious collision.
This could be avoided by drivers making use of designated drivers, taxis, or in Weyburn, using the city police’s “The Ride’s On Us” program, which eliminates any possibility of driving impaired.
The question is, how many more people have to die or get seriously hurt in a collision before the message seeps through that it is simply not okay to drive while high or drunk?