“Impaired driving is still the leading cause of criminal death in Canada.  Impaired motorists place everyone’s safety at risk by drinking and driving on Ontario roads and highways with thousands of lives lost every year.”

This message was found at the bottom of a media release sent out this week by the Niagara Regional Police Service as part of its Festive RIDE results announcing the police had been out searching Niagara roads for drunk drivers – and that they caught a few.

And sadly, this information is correct.

During the past decade, more than 2,000 lives have been lost on Ontario roadways and more than 50,000 people have sustained injuries in collisions involving a drinking driver.

Take another look at that line – impaired driving is still the leading cause of criminal death in Canada.

Drinking and driving hurts everyone – through deaths, injuries and personal tragedies. It also hurts our economy through added costs for health care, emergency response and property damage. The financial cost to society of drinking and driving is estimated to be at least $3 billion annually.

So, as part of our newsroom discussions last week on whether or not to publish the names of Niagara residents charged by police, we decided to move forward, attend court and print the outcomes of criminal charges.

It was there we met our first roadblock, from the NRP itself.

Although Hamilton’s police service, and many others across the province, release the names of those charged with impaired driving, the NRP does not.

It does release the names of most adults charged with pretty much everything else.

When reached for comment, NRP spokesperson Rich Gadreau said the department’s current policy is to not release the names of those charged with impaired driving.

“We are always evaluating our policies and if there is any reason why anyone should feel that the release of those names would benefit the public we would welcome any input,” said Gadreau.

The names of people charged with a criminal offense is a matter of public record, making this policy questionable at best.

The answer to what benefit is provided to the public in releasing the names of those charged with impaired driving should be clear — public safety.

Every year, about 17,000 drivers are convicted of Criminal Code of Canada offences (including impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08, criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death, manslaughter, dangerous driving and failure to remain at the scene of a collision). It is estimated that about three-quarters of those convictions are related to drinking and driving.

Impaired drivers are involved in thousands of traffic collisions every year. Drunk driving accounts for almost 25 per cent of all fatalities on Ontario’s roads, so if not for people still choosing to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking, isn’t it logical to assume that those fatalities wouldn’t have happened? That those people didn’t have to die?

So last Friday night, Nov. 29, the NRP conducted a RIDE checkpoint in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Welland. Officers stopped more than 1,000 vehicles, and three drivers were arrested for impaired driving. 

But we don’t know who they are, so we can’t provide the public service of a warning that your neighbour or a guy parked next to you at work may risk not only his own life but yours when he gets behind the wheel.

Police-reported crime in Canada continues to drop, with 2012 having a crime rate at the lowest level since 1972, according to data from Statistics Canada.

The murder rate in 2012 was the lowest it’s been since 1966, with 1.56 murders per 100,0000, Statistics Canada said, as well as a decrease in most violent crimes which means, thankfully, there is less of a chance of becoming a victim of certain types of crime.

But here in Niagara while we can tell you the names of the people who robbed the local gas bar and the names of people charged with assaulting someone during a bar fight, we can’t tell you about the person wielding at will, a far larger weapon, on a public road, while he or she is intoxicated.

Source: Niagara This Week


Last updated on: 2013-12-06 | Link to this post