The Government of P.E.I. has teamed up with MADD Canada to push road safety messages to the forefront of motorists’ minds.
Drive Safe-Drive Sober messages are now displayed on roadside variable message boards at eight locations across the province.
The message boards, normally used to advise motorists of bridgework and road closures, were taken out of storage in time for the launch of MADD Canada’s 2017 Red Ribbon campaign.
Susan MacAskill, MADD Canada Atlantic Region Chapter services manager, explained during the provincial launch of the Red Ribbon campaign Wednesday at the West Prince RCMP barracks, that wearing MADD’s red ribbon “is a symbol to one’s commitment to always drive sober, and it sends a clear message to everyone that it will never be OK to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs… and a tribute to those from Prince Edward Island and across the country who have been killed or injured in an impaired driving crash, and their loved ones who are also affected.”
“We long for the day when that message won’t be needed anymore, but unfortunately we’re not there yet,” she said referring to statistics that indicate 1,250 to 1,500 people are killed and 63,000 are injured in impaired-related crashes every year in Canada.
MacAskill said the Red Ribbon campaign, now in its 30th year, is always launched in a lead-up to Christmas, the busiest time of the year on most social calendars, when the risk of impaired driving is particularly high.
MADD West Prince Chapter member-at-large, Roth Guth, said the message boards extend beyond impaired driving.
“It’s about making the public roadways safer for all users and reducing injuries and deaths.
“It’s about safety awareness and influencing behaviours for those of us who have become complacent about driving. It’s about…wearing your seatbelt, putting down your cellphone, turning on your lights, slowing down in school zones … not tailgating, using your signals, stopping for school buses, securing your load, moving over for stopped police vehicles and stopping in all directions for emergency vehicles, and leaving ample space when passing bicycles or pedestrians,” advised Guth, a drivers education instructor.
Guth said MADD P.E.I. is hoping the pilot message board project will lead to a rollout of a nationwide program.
Rural and Regional Development Minister Pat Murphy, at the Red Ribbon launch, expressed his government’s commitment to providing further deterrence to impaired driving
“These senseless deaths and injuries are totally, 100 per cent, preventable.”
Prior to a MADD Canada and RCMP traffic stop on the highway in front of the West Prince RCMP barracks, MADD West Prince volunteer Trudy Betts shared how her family was changed forever when her 16-year-old daughter was struck and killed 24 years ago by a driver who subsequently failed two breathalyzer tests.
MADD is asking Islanders to take a red ribbon “and to tie it, wear it, show it, share it and live it,” said MacAskill.
MADD advocates for mandatory testing for drugs and alcohol
MacAskill said the national organization is lobbying federal politicians hard to pass Bill C-46.
This legislation would give police officers power to conduct mandatory breathalyzer testing of motorists.
She refers to it as a life-saving measure and indicated industrialized countries that have already introduced such legislation have reported a 19 to 35 per cent decline in impaired-driving-related deaths and injuries.
MacAskill said a top constitutional order has suggested such demands would not trigger a Charter of Rights challenge as citizens already submit to mandatory screening at airports.
“Our highways should be protected this way,” she said in an interview following the MADD Canada Red Ribbon campaign launch.
MacAskill also expressed concern over legalization of marijuana next July, suggesting Canada is not equipped to protect its highways against the drug impaired drivers already on them. She fears there will be more people driving high once marijuana is legalized.
MADD Canada, she said, is seeking approval for devices that will test drivers’ saliva for the presence of drugs.