Humber’s Lakeshore campus buckled up for a lesson in responsible holiday driving for the 2017 launch of the RIDE check program.
The Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere initiative celebrated its 40th anniversary this year to promote safer and sober travel options. RIDE, which is partnered with Ontario Provincial Police, uses randomized police checkpoints throughout Ontario to monitor sobriety on the roads.
Lakeshore campus hosted the Wednesday launch as dozens of students, police, paramedics and firefighters flooded the Learning Commons to hear from speakers involved with the program.
Insp. Vanessa Leslie of the OPP Highway Safety Division said statistics about impaired driving in Ontario are troubling.
“So far this year 37 people have died in collisions, 19 of those were innocent victims,” she said.
Impaired driving is legally defined as a criminal offence when a driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 80 milligrams to 100 millilitres of blood. A breathalyzer test showing a BAC between 0.05 to 0.08mg is known as the warn range and can result in provincial administrative penalties.
Leslie said 623 people were charged with impaired driving, and 407 blew in the warn range during the 2016 RIDE program.
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt narrowed the numbers down to one specific incident of a 22-year-old woman who was killed because of impaired driving.
A short video profiling Kalina Tsaneva played for the audience, including her mother, whose eyes dropped away from the video intermittently while pictures of her daughter flashed on the screens.
Tsaneva got into a vehicle with an intoxicated driver who sped 130 km/h down a country road in December 2015.
“Smiles are always half smiles, laughter always has a bitter taste,” her father Victor said in the video.
Schmidt said it’s a tragedy to see instances like these repeatedly occur.
“With every one of those numbers is a name and a family, who now have a life sentence of mourning and grieving the loss of a loved one,” he said.
But it’s not just drinking and driving making the road more dangerous.
Ontario has seen a steady increase in drug-impaired driving over the past few years, with a 38 per cent increase in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.
The RIDE launch event placed an information spotlight on driving high this year since the legalization of marijuana is just around the corner.
Dr. Roger Ferreira, the chief science officer at the medicinal marijuana company Beleave, presented a video that dispelled the smoke and mirrors surrounding high driving.
Beleave partnered with RIDE to produce three fake “Consequence Strains” of marijuana with side effects akin to the consequences of driving high: Kourtroom Kush, White Whiplash and Slammer Time.
Slammer Time has symptoms of “remorse, paranoia and isolation from the outside world. The same feelings as someone who’s been sentenced to prison for killing another driver or pedestrian,” the narrator said.
Toronto Sgt. Alex Crews said Toronto will be assigning more Standard Field Sobriety Test officers who can conduct roadside sobriety tests.
The RIDE checks officially launched on Lake Shore Boulevard West later that afternoon with officers stopping cars at random to let them know about the program.
“The whole idea is if you get stopped, you talk about it. The message gets out there and hopefully that’s going to make you think, ‘I better not, because just around the corner there may be that RIDE check,’” Crews said.