Do the media, the police, and the people, do enough to stop drunk driving?

Back when I was still a youngish reporter and the RIDE program (Reduced Impaired Driving Everyone) had been just a few years on the scene, many a small-town Ontario paper published the names of those who “blew over” in the new roadside checks.

Impaired? Your name appeared in the local paper for all to read, bringing much shame and embarrassment.

Which seemed just dandy to a lot of people, at first. Finally we’re going to get some action on this scourge that is impaired operation of a motor vehicle — a bomb on wheels when under the control, just barely, of someone who’d been drinking.

Because people seemed, at the time at least, to have had enough of drunk drivers killing innocent others. They wanted to put a stop to it. This was a way of getting people’s attention. Do a spot-check (controversial in itself at first, police stopping drivers at random, essentially without cause) and publish the names of those who’ve been charged.

Finally, people will wise up, get a designated driver, call a cab, sleep over, stay home.

That is, until a mayor or  a police officer’s daughter’s boyfriend who was hoping to become a cop himself, or a doctor or lawyer or editor or real estate agent or principal or developer ended up stopped at a RIDE check on their way home from a bar or a Christmas party or a client social.  

These people a) didn’t like seeing their names in print this way and b) had status and power.

And slowly but surely, via angry phone calls and legal threats and other methods, pressure was exerted on many police forces to stop releasing the names and on publishers to stop publishing them, if they could even still get them.

As if the press and the police are all just a bunch of party-poopers and it’s just people who had a little too much fun one night and made a mistake. And they are only charged, not convicted at this point. And this could ruin their career, their reputation, their home life. And sure, maybe they should have thought of that before driving drunk, but that’s the thing about being impaired: you’re impaired in your judgment, not just hand-eye coordination.

So, RIDE continued. But, other than the inconvenience of losing a licence temporarily or paying a fine, those who drove drunk didn’t face consequences that were that serious. In other words, in many cases only they would ever know what happened. No one else.

The result? For one thing, drunk driving continues, despite 30 years of RIDE spot-checks.

Hey, we’re going to start selling more booze in grocery stores and legalize pot! It’s all about convenience, not control (the LC in LCBO being for Liquor Control).

Meanwhile, not many police forces routinely put out the names of people accused and/or convicted of impaired driving.

And you don’t hear the public calling for it, because, why? Because, sadly, at least slight impairment while driving is still socially acceptable. Incredibly. Says a lot about us. Fun comes first. Just don’t get caught.

The only time we read the names, it seems, is when an impaired driver gets into a crash and kills someone else.

Then we learn more about them than we ever wanted to.

And of course by then it’s too late.

Source: Metroland Media York Region




Last updated on: 2016-03-11 | Link to this post