Sobering statistics

There’s not a lot to be concluded from the results, released by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) on Jan. 8, of the annual Festive RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) initiative.

The OPP charged 587 drivers with impaired driving during the campaign, which ran from Nov. 24 to Jan. 2. An additional 366 drivers were issued a warning-range suspension and had their driver’s licence suspended for having a blood alcohol concentration between .05 and .08.

By comparison, the agency charged 623 impaired drivers and issued 407 warning-range suspensions during the 2016-17 holiday season.

Given the numerous variables that go into timing, location and duration of any given RIDE check, the difference in the figures year to year can’t really be considered an indication there are fewer impaired drivers on the road, although the number of checks conducted were up substantially in 2017 from the previous year (9,830 compared to 7,343).

What the numbers do show for certain is there are still some people taking the enormous risks associated with drinking and driving, which truly begs the question, “Why?”

In addition to the potentially life-altering penalties (loss of license, requirement for interlock ignition installation and even incarceration), the tragic consequences of serious or fatal automobile accidents are always magnified when alcohol is a factor. Police note 44 lives were lost in alcohol/drug-related collisions on OPP-patrolled roads in 2017.

Maiming or killing someone while drunk at the wheel is not something anyone can easily move on from.

In addition to the holiday season RIDE effort, the OPP and other policing agencies expend enormous resources enforcing impaired driving laws. In 2017, the OPP charged 4,915 drivers with alcohol-impaired charges and 238 drivers with drug-impaired charges and issued 2,995 warning-range suspensions. Many believe the addition of legalized marijuana consumption beginning this summer will further complicate enforcement efforts which, it should be remembered, come with substantial tax-funded costs.

The ideal solution is for everyone to recognize that sober is the only way to drive.

However, as there will inevitably be those who ignore the sobering realities, the OPP is again reminding the public to call 911 if they suspect that someone is driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

It could be a life-saving call.