When it comes to preventing drunk driving, putting good laws in place is one part of the battle. Education is another. Often when people understand how dangerous they are impaired behind the wheel, and they’re aware of the penalties, they make better choices.
But sometimes a third factor comes into play: the community. A robust drinking culture can overcome good judgment just as surely as a succession of shots can. That’s the problem that plagues Nova Scotia in general, and Cape Breton in particular. And it’s one that a new policy aims to change.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority has drafted a new municipal alcohol policy that will probably be in force within a month. The policy includes these measures:
- Designating some municipal facilities and events as alcohol-free
- Prohibiting alcohol ads at family oriented events
- Prohibiting alcohol companies from having naming rights to municipal facilities
- Ending “happy hour” and “last call”
Cape Breton has one of Canada’s largest populations of heavy drinkers. They seem to start early – as early as age nine – and are more likely to be problem drinkers, and drunk drivers as well. Excessive drinking is common in public and at most social functions.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada gives Nova Scotia a “D” rating for what it considers insufficient measures to combat the problem of impaired driving in the province. Nova Scotia does not immediately suspend drunk drivers, or impound their vehicles, and its ignition interlock program is not sufficient, according to their reckoning.
The Health Authority is not the only organization tackling the problem in the region. A group of health professionals under the banner Changing The Culture has started a campaign “to change the culture of drinking in Nova Scotia so that there is more enjoyment and less hurt in [their] everyday lives.”
Laws can be hard to change, and so can habits. Transforming an entire culture so that it does not promote overdrinking at every social occasion is an even more daunting task. But it’s one that has been done before, and needs to be done now. The Nova Scotia Health Authority is determined that this is where and when that change starts.