The Calgary Stampede is the biggest yearly event in Alberta, and with it comes the chance to don your cowboy apparel and enjoy a bit of authentic Alberta fun. But the event also comes with the worry that the down home partying going on at the fair grounds will kick off a period of increased drunk driving in Calgary, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was among the first to voice their concerns. That’s why a media test of Ford’s ‘Drunk Driving Suit’ was bringing hope that this would be the year fair attendants choose to say no to drinking and driving.
The suit lets the person putting it on experience what it’s like to be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Equipped with goggles to cause vision issues, earmuffs to muffle sound, and ankle and wrist weights to throw off balance, Calgary media put on the gear and tried to pass a sobriety test. For the testers, it was eye opening – ‘It’s completely disorienting,” said CBC Calgary reporter Devin Heroux. “There’s no way it would be safe to operate a vehicle in that condition.”
Maybe the drunk suit is helping the message get across – although there have been more than 1000 people charged with drunk driving in Calgary and 4 alcohol-related traffic fatalities this year alone, the RCMP and MADD were both encouraged that usual hectic period of the Calgary Stampede saw a slight decrease in drunk driving charges.
Data released by the RCMP showed an 18 percent drop from 2013 for drunk driving related charges, with only 74 charges in 2014 from 90 charges in 2013. This drop came even after the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission decided to serve alcohol in the morning hours, with an 8 am breakfast of beer flowing in the Stampede beer gardens.
It might have been the drunk suit, it might have been the extra push to bring awareness of the dangers of drunk driving in Calgary – whatever the case, the decrease in drunk driving charges during Alberta’s biggest event of the year is encouraging for everyone who’s involved in the fight against drunk driving.