I first wrote this when I was 17 years old…
“On November 8, 1992 a man was on his way home from his friend’s house. He had had a couple of drinks with his friend before he left for home. his friend tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen. On his way home the car left the road, flipped over several times, hit a telephone pole and fell into a water-filled ditch. That man drowned. That man was my uncle.
My uncle had previously had several crashes and charges involving impaired driving. Those crashes and fines did not stop him. I believe that it is the same way for many individuals who do drink and drive. For the majority of individuals who drive impaired, the current laws offer no effective deterrents.
In order to have effective deterrents to drinking and driving we must change the current laws regarding impaired driving. We must also redirect the public education programs towards the friends and families of the impaired drivers. in my opinion if these measures are taken then the automobile crashes and deaths involving alcohol will decrease. If these measures had been in place one year ago maybe many friends and families would not have had to go throguh the pain and agony caused by the death of a loved on due to impaired driving.
The best weapon that we have to combat impaired driving are the friends of the individuals who choose to drink and drive and the bartenders who serve the drinks to these individuals. I believe that the awareness programs should be focussed more intensely on the bartenders and friends. If these people can become convinced of, and dedicated to their duties to the individuals who do drive impaired, then I believe that the deaths and injuries involving impaired driving will be reduced even more significantly, and that our lives will all be a little bit better.”
In the time since I wrote that article Ontario and Canada have toughened the laws and penalties around impaired driving and still people drive while impaired. Of course now we have things like texting and driving that are also impairing drivers. People continue to die and get injured as a result of impaired driving.
After I wrote this I had the opportunity to serve as a regional representative and provincial spokesperson for Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving. OSAID is a fantastic organization of high school students that gave me opportunities to learn about myself, fight for a cause I believed in and deal with the anger I felt after my uncle died. In the years that I was involved in the fight against impaired driving I met many people who like me had experienced a loss due to impaired driving. It was empowering to find an outlet to work on an issue that I was passionate about.
The rates have come down since I first wrote that piece and it is much less socially acceptable than it once was. Organizations like OSAID and MADD continue to promote sober driving and work to save lives. Positive peer pressure works and we can collectively make an effort to save lives by stopping friends and others from getting in a car and driving while impaired. I am not sure that stricter laws as I called for when I was 17 will necessarily make the difference. I am however more convinced than ever that FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS DRINK AND DRIVE!
Please consider donating to your local sober driving organization. Grab keys from those you think are planning to drive impaired, take a cab, be a designated driver or do it the old-fashioned way and walk.