Alberta disappointed us this week. Or at least, 1 in 5 Albertans did. They’re the ones who responded to a poll by saying that they would consider driving under the influence of alcohol, provided it was only for a short distance on quiet roads.
The poll was conducted by the public research firm Mainstreet.
What’s going on? It should be clear from years of publicity campaigns that impaired driving is never permissible, and never safe. Yet a large number of Albertans feel they can get away with it, and are okay doing so provided no one is around to stop them.
There are two fronts in the war against impaired driving. One is the legislative front. On that, Alberta is doing better than most provinces, with some fairly strong laws discouraging drunk driving. Alberta suspends licences automatically after a DUI arrest, and mandates ignition interlocks (car breathalyzers) for all drunk driving offences. Furthermore, an offender must successfully complete the interlock program (having no failed tests for a specified time period) before the interlock is removed.
There is a second front, that of public perception. People, particularly young people, must be aware that drunk driving is dangerous, and must know of the alternatives available: taxis, rideshare services, designated driver services, and the like. There must be a social stigma attached to drunk driving.
While the numbers of alcohol-related road fatalities are dropping, and so the message is getting through, it is clearly not getting through to everyone. Clearly one in five Albertans is at least open to the idea of driving while impaired. And while most of them might never have the opportunity, we don’t want them to chance it.
Let your fellow Albertans know that you don’t think it’s okay to drink and drive under any circumstances. Not for a short time, not on quiet roads, not anywhere or anytime.
Potential drunk drivers are one minority that needs to stay a minority. Are you listening, Alberta?