Nov 29, 2013 - IMPAIRED DRIVING NOT JUST A WEEKEND PROBLEM: STUDENT CHECK STOP SENDS A MESSAGE

Memorial Composite High School students participated in a mock crash in May 2013 to help raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving

Winter had hit, roads were terrible and someone was driving the wrong way down Highway 16A.

Elsewhere, someone got behind the wheel with more than five times the legal limit of alcohol in their bloodstream.

Drinking and driving is not a weekend issue. It’s not a Friday night problem or a city problem. It’s happening at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, at 3 p.m., at 6 a.m.

Despite harsher sanctions this year from the provincial government, when a weekend shift in Stony Plain sees six people lined up at a time waiting for breath tests there seems little hope of combating this widespread problem.

Statistics released from the RCMP on Nov. 25 show one in 20 Alberta drivers involved in a collision resulting in injury had been drinking prior to that collision. That number climbs astronomically as the severity of the collision increases, to one in five drivers involved in a fatal collision.

Impaired driving doesn’t just mean alcohol. It also includes drugs — illegal drugs as well as prescription drugs, if taken improperly or if directions aren’t followed.

RCMP know the proportion of impaired drivers they catch is very small. Regardless, they have a message to send out to those thinking about getting behind the wheel: “You will be caught.”

In the Spruce Grove/Stony Plain area, the RCMP rely on check stops, patrols and calls from the public to catch impaired drivers.

“This is not to say every report of an erratic driver means the person is impaired. There are all kinds of reasons why people drive poorly, unfortunately,” said Cpl. Colette Zazulak.

“But in the year 2013, there’s way too many options out there that you can’t say you didn’t have any other choice.”

Zazulak said statistics don’t reflect the true extent of the problem; there’s always the ones that fly under the radar or outrun the cops. And for the ones who do get arrested, even jail time may not be enough to stop their behaviour.

“We’re still seeing repeat offenders. We’re seeing people who have been charged with impaired driving several times,” Zazulak said. “There are people out there who have been convicted of impaired driving causing death more than once. Sometimes you just don’t know what it’s going to take.”

Raising awareness, one check stop at a time

Zazulak says underage impaired driving is as much a problem as any other age group — “Impaired driving runs the gamut from the very young to the very old, so there’s not one group that’s responsible for the majority of impaired driving.”

And while messages against drunk driving are widespread, local students are spreading the word to youths their age in a less conventional way.

At Memorial Composite High School (MCHS) in Stony Plain, members of the Rotary Interact Club are getting ready for their Candy Cane Check Stop, a collaboration between the school and groups such as Emergency Services and the RCMP.

It has a dual purpose: firstly, to gather donations for the food bank or Kinsmen food hampers, and secondly, to raise awareness about safe driving.

Scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, the Check Stop volunteers will be stopping every vehicle that pulls into the school parking lot to ask for donations.

Andy Breckenridge, one of the co-ordinating teachers, said the event is as much an opportunity to serve a cause, as it is a way to connect the community together.

“From my experience (with the Check Stop) last year, what was really noticeable was that constant reminder: ‘Remember to be safe on the roads this Christmas,’ ” he said.

“As everyone pulls in, you have the emergency vehicles, you have the opportunity to remind people to be safe and enjoy the holiday season … It really does bring awareness while at the same time really encouraging people to give during the holiday season.”

Rotary Interact Club president Fiona Chang, who participated in the event last year, said the Check Stop format is extremely effective, given the amount of students who drive.

“This event is important because it raises awareness of safe driving during the winter,” Chang said. “It’s also a great opportunity to give to those in need during the holiday season. We’d like to meet what we raised last year or exceed it, and the generosity of students at our school at this time of year never ceases to amaze me.”

For Rotary Interact member Megan Shaul, the event is a way to get the information out there beyond the confines of the school.

“The kids are going to go through this check stop and then they’re going to go home and tell their parents about it. I think it’s a good way to spread it beyond our school, really get the word out about safe driving and what we’re doing within the school,” Shaul said.

Baylee Martin, another member, said the duality of spreading generosity and reminding students to drive safely is the key factor of the event.

MCHS isn’t the only stop for the Candy Cane Check Stop, but last year that one location raised more than $1,000 for the Kinsmen Christmas Hamper program. It’s a legacy topped off by the fact that every student driving into the school that day is reminded that safe driving is important.

“I would say it was exceptionally effective, because otherwise it’s a message you hear in passing but when you have that face-to-face conversation it’s a little different,” Breckenridge said.

“This is one of our most important events throughout the year.”

Source: Spruce Grove Examiner


 

Last updated on: 2013-12-01 | Link to this post