Despite all of the pleas from authorities, the agony of the victims, and fines and other hardships for the perpetrators, Islanders still are not getting the message: Driving drunk kills and isn’t worth the risk.
The latest example of an Island driver not getting the message came on Sunday night when a 39-year-old man was arrested in Wellington for drunk driving; he had two children, both under 10, in the back seat. Police stopped the vehicle because of the excessive speed in which it was allegedly travelling. Once pulled over, and in addition to the kids, officers say they found open liquor and a driver with an expired licence.
The night before, Prince District RCMP were focused on impaired driving enforcement, resulting in charges for four people in three different incidents. Clearly the message isn’t getting through. So what do we do to stop it?
P.E.I. Transportation Minister Robert Vessey was recently heard mulling over the possibility of much higher fines for those caught texting and driving; why not the same for impaired driving from his counterparts in Ottawa who control the Criminal Code?
To be fair, earlier this year, the province announced stiffer measures in the Highway Traffic Act for chronic drunk drivers, but as these most recent incidents show, even more effort is needed.
The most recent changes included: longer ignition interlock sentences, more restrictions and a specially coded licence plate. According to provincial officials the total number of impaired-driving convictions has decreased over the past four years due in part, they say, to tougher legislation, targeted patrols by law enforcement and more Islanders calling 9-1-1 from their vehicles when they witness an impaired driver.
And just because there are fewer does not mean that there are still not a lot.
It may seem harsh and unfair to some, but the time has long since passed for much harsher penalties; what we’re doing now isn’t working.
If society is truly sincere about ending the practice of drinking and driving, the penalties for doing so have to be more than an inconvenience. They have to disrupt lives – after all that's what happens to the victims of this crime, so why not the perpetrators?
People need to go to jail for more than just the weekend and they need to pay enough in fines that it really affects their way of life.
Few things are as effective as fear and as these most recent events show, not enough people fear the consequences of driving drunk.