With prairie land stretching as far as the eye can see and hundreds of farm towns with populations as low as 80 people total, the landscape of Saskatchewan can make you feel as though you’re the only one on the road when driving from small town to small town. But in these small towns you may get small town mentalities and a keep-to-yourself attitude, so if you asked the people living there whether or not drunk driving is a problem in their province, they’d probably say no.
The statistics on impaired driving in Saskatchewan say otherwise. Saskatchewan has the worst impaired driving record in all of Canada, and RCMP recently reported they are seeing an alarming rate of fatal impaired driving crashes in the province, with this past Labour Day weekend resulting in four alcohol-related fatalities near small towns.
But like many other groups of people, unless someone personally knows someone in an alcohol-related crash or they’ve been arrested on an impaired driving charge and were required to install a car breathalyzer, the sobering statistics may not register. You can encourage people to read public service announcements and provide education in schools to prevent impaired driving, but that can only go so far.
That’s why the RCMP have said there needs to be a ‘cultural shift’ in attitude within the province, and that has to start with people reporting friends and neighbours who are drinking and driving. With so many isolated back roads and highways stretching between small towns, picking up the keys after a beer or two and heading home might be seen as no big deal, but because even one glass of beer or hard alcohol can affect your coordination and mental acuity, that short drive can have deadly consequences for the driver and anyone on the road with them.
Recent changes to Saskatchewan’s impaired driving laws may soon result in a drop in impaired driving fatalities. With car breathalyzers or ignition interlocks required for first offenders and immediate impounding of vehicles, the news that impaired drivers will be dealt with severely will soon spread.
If people in the province want to turn the tide on Saskatchewan’s terrible impaired driving record, everyone, even people in small towns who don’t want to call in their neighbours, has a responsibility to stand and say no more when it comes to drunk driving.