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Working to curb drunk driving

Posted on November 13, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Nov. 1 marked the launch of Project Red Ribbon.

Every November, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) kicks off the campaign, in an attempt to create awareness and encourage drivers across the country to be responsible as the holiday season approaches.

Millions of red ribbons will be distributed across the country between Nov. 1-Jan. 6, many of which will see their way on to vehicles, key chains, purses, briefcases and backpacks. They are visual reminders for Canadians, reminders of the dangers drinking and driving pose every day for drivers in this country.

As a society, driving under the influence of alcohol was once tolerated and certainly not viewed in the serious nature it is today. Many thought nothing of getting behind the wheel, often with loved ones in tow, after having a number of drinks.

Through aggressive campaigns, law enforcement efforts, school programs and a general heightened awareness, drinking and driving is less common today. But make no mistake, each and every year drivers across Canada get behind the wheel when they know they should not.

Many times, these drivers manage to make it home safe. That said, the risk factors are off the charts when it comes to operating a motor vehicle in an impaired state. Navigating busy city streets, making quick decisions while travelling at highway speeds on the surrounding highways and dealing with other drivers is enough to keep even the most focused motorists busy at the best of times. Performing these tasks while impaired throws an unexceptable level of risk into the equation.

Volunteers involved in MADD know this all too well, including Rhonda Burge, president of the Taber/Lethbridge and District chapter of the organization. She lost her six-year-old daughter in 1998 in an alcohol-related collision on a highway under construction. Tragedies such as those are not only unnecessary and preventable, but cause incalculable damage to thousands of Canadians each and every year.

Families from coast to coast have been devastated by the impacts of impaired driving. Still, each and every year, drivers take the risk, downing that one extra pint, making that decision to not call a cab or not taking the keys of a friend after a long night out.

The potential to do harm to others is reason enough to avoid getting behind the wheel, if you have any reason to believe your ability to drive may be impaired. There is also a level of risk to the driver as well, as the harsh penalties associated with a drunk-driving conviction come with serious implications — losing your licence for an extended period of time being one of them.

Having a designated driver, calling a friend or cab company or using a service like Operation Red Nose this winter, are easy ways to ensure a safe trip home. The hope is those red ribbons will provide another reminder along the way this holiday season. But for MADD, and all southern Albertans using our local city streets and highways, the hope is this message is heard all 12 months of the year.

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