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Festive R.I.D.E. program focuses on visibility, education

Sgt. John Hatch, detachment commander of the Prince Edward County OPP gives the thumbs up to Tim Hortons owner Paul Massey during the launch of the Festive R.I.D.E. program Thursday, in Rossmore. Massey, as would be expected, was drinking coffee.

‘Tis the season to remind motorists not to drink and drive and the Quinte Region Traffic Coalition is making sure the message is heard with the launch of the Festive R.I.D.E  (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program.

Officers from Prince Edward County, Belleville and Quinte West launched this year’s program Thursday afternoon with traffic stops at Rossmore.

Staff Sgt. John Hatch, Prince Edward OPP detachment commander said that while the County’s three traffic fatalities this year were not linked to impaired driving, there has been an increase in the number of impaired charges this year.

“It’s still a problem,” Hatch said. “What we can do is keep doing these RIDE programs, to be visible and to educate.

“The whole focus of the R.I.D.E. is not to catch people – we do catch people – but it’s to be visible and to deter. We’ll set up a R.I.D.E. stop here and within 15 minutes half of Belleville knows exactly where the program is – and that’s good if it makes that person make that phone call and get that other ride home.”

On average, officers in Prince Edward County catch one impaired driver a week – up to 50 this year. Last year the number was in the high 40s.

Const. Dave Ludington, of Quinte West OPP, said the holiday season is an important time for officers to “ensure everybody’s doing the right thing and getting rides home the proper ways – Red Nose, transit, taxi cabs that sort of thing.”

Upward of 20 officers from across the regional helped launch the campaign Thursday in various locations. For areas with shared borders, he said it’s not uncommon for officers from different detachments to join together for R.I.D.E. stops.

“We try to co-ordinate times when we can meet and do joint R.I.D.E. programs along our borders to increase the numbers. We want the public to know that we do mean business and drinking and driving is something we don’t take lightly,” he said.

“With the holiday season we know it’s socially acceptable to get together and have an alcoholic beverage,” said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health with the Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit. “But another aspect is we encourage and remind residents there are relatively simple ways to preventing impaired driving – one of the top four leading causes of preventable injury from motor vehicle collisions.”

He said the simple way to prevent this type of injury is to assume there is no safe level of alcohol to drive.

Strategies, he notes, include having a designated driver who has consumed no alcohol – as opposed to the driver who had had the least to drink.

“Call a cab, stay overnight, use services such as the Operation Red Nose,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of improvement over the years and overall a downward trend of injuries from drinking and driving but we have not seen a significant improvement since the late 1990s so there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

Oglaza says people who see someone who is impaired about to drive should “speak up. They should take action. Ask them for keys, offer to help get a cab or find a way for them to get home, or stay overnight. It’s important to speak up, and in some situations, connect with the authorities.”

With changes to marijuana laws on the way, Oglaza says drugs – alcohol, prescription or non-prescription drugs – can affect a person’s ability to drive.

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