One of Ontario’s festive traditions doesn’t involve songs or gifts: it’s a program called Festive R.I.D.E. – Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere – which seeks to find and apprehend drunk and drugged drivers before they cause havoc on the roads.
The Ontario Provincial Police are now on the roads 24/7, checking for drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The two-pronged approach of R.I.D.E comprises education and focused enforcement. The objective: make the point as forcefully as possible that impaired driving is never acceptable.
Festive R.I.D.E. is a stepping up of the ongoing R.I.D.E. campaign that has been going on throughout the year. Through September, more than 5,600 drivers were charged with offenses. Police note that alcohol-related charges are down from the previous year, but drug-related charges are up.
Drivers who are stopped at R.I.D.E. checks are questioned, and if the officer suspects impairment, a breathalyzer test is given. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 or above earns an automatic licence suspension. Fines and imprisonment are also possible outcomes. In many cases driving privileges can be restored with the installation of an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
The R.I.D.E program involves checks not only at night, but in the morning. Many drivers are not aware of how long it takes for alcohol from a long drinking session to leave their system. A driver can party at night, go to sleep, and still be impaired on the way to work. If so, R.I.D.E. will be looking out for them.
The Festive R.I.D.E. campaign runs through the holiday season to January 2nd. The OPP’s goal, says Commissioner Vince Hawkins, is to “see that not one life is lost due to impaired driving during the season.” That would be a festive outcome indeed.