Impaired driving is stupid.

Obvious thing #2: Don’t do it, not even for “short” drives home.

Indeed, it’s probably even dumber if you’re close to home. At that point it’s even easier to take a cab or to get someone to come pick you. And easier to retrieve your car or truck the next day, too.

In our exclusive Mainstreet Research/Postmedia poll on drinking and driving released over the weekend, about 18 per cent of respondents said they would consider driving while over the blood alcohol limit of .08 if the distance was short and the streets or roads to their destination were quiet.

That 18 per cent need to give their heads a shake. All it takes is one split-second miscalculation to permanently alter your life or the lives of others.

That said, though, I can almost assure you the official response to our poll’s findings will be mostly wrong. The reaction will be, “Oh my god, one-fifth of Albertans feel it’s okay to drink and drive a little!? We obviously haven’t done enough preaching to them!”

I have tremendous respect for the goals and mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and anti-impaired police units. I admire what both have achieved in the past 30 years.

Our kids are now in their early 20s and the greatest fear I have for their safety is that they will get into a car with a driver-friend who has been drinking. Or they will be driving back home from a party after being responsible, yet some impaired jackass still plows into them.

But a few points about anti-drunk-driving politicians’ and advocates’ tactics.

First, they should take pride in what they have already achieved. It might strike you as high that 18 per cent of drivers surveyed thought a little drunk driving was okay. But 20 or 30 years ago, that figure would have been double or triple that number.

Governments and MADD have changed the cultural perception about having a few, then driving. It’s no longer seen as a minor public sin. Public awareness of the dangers of impaired driving is at an all time high.

That said, there has to be an admission on the part of crusading advocates and politicians that in the last decade or so, their preachy tactics and legislative clampdowns have had very poor returns relative to the big gains in the 1980s and 1990s.

Research in Canada, the U.S. and Britain is all showing pretty much the same thing: We have converted as many drivers are we can with harpy ads. It’s good to have public service spots that reinforce the perils from time-to-time. But we are not going to lower the rate of impaired driving much below where it already is by increasing our do-gooder, shock-and-disgust ads.

And we’re not going to have much more impact through more roadside spot checks or Alison Redford-era imposition of lower blood alcohol levels.

The current impaired drivers who remain unrepentant are harder nuts to crack. They are simply not going to be persuaded by advertising – particularly highly moralizing ads. If they could be persuaded that way they already would have been.

And for the most part they won’t be deterred by Checkstops. Random pullovers are a method that is most effective against ordinary, middle-class drivers most of whom are already behaving well.

To catch the remaining bad drivers will require more effort and resources. More police patrols outside bar parking lots. Tougher jail sentences for convicted impaired drivers, particularly for repeat offenders and those who ignore licence suspensions.

Reducing drunk driving is as worthwhile as ever, but tactics have to change. 

Source: Edmonton Sun


Last updated on: 2016-12-22 | Link to this post