10 people in 5 years – that’s how many have been killed due to impaired driving crashes on north-eastern Ontario highways. Despite tough penalties for impaired driving including jail time, loss of driver’s license, fines, and ignition interlock installation, people are still choosing to get behind the wheel while impaired. Why is this still happening? That’s what the police and media are trying to find out.
A radio show on CBC Ontario had OPP Insp. Mark Andrews on as a guest recently and they spent some time on the subject of impaired drivers in north-eastern Ontario. The first thing they highlighted was that there is no specific stereotypical impaired driver profile. You can’t just look at someone and tell if they have the potential to be a drunk driver. It doesn’t happen to just people who drive in red cars or blue trucks. Anyone can make the choice to get behind the wheel after drinking, and that could include your friend’s mom, your grandfather, or the 18 year old who lives next door.
They also spoke about how these impaired drivers have a common feeling of entitlement that makes them feel as though it’s their personal right to take the risk to get behind the wheel, much in the way that it’s their right to drive in the first place. That sense of entitlement may be why the penalties don’t seem to matter. Even Insp. Andrews believes Ontario’s impaired driving penalties are severe enough that people should stop and think before drinking and driving, but the prospect of a jail time and a year term with ignition interlocks hasn’t helped when it comes to some drivers.