Last week Québec started its annual program to immunize itself against a plague that claims lives every year: impaired driving.
The program is called Operation VACCIN. The acronym stands for vérification accrue de la capacité de conduite – Intervention nationale. In English that’s “enhanced verification of driving capacity – national response.”
Operation VACCIN is, as its name implies, preventive in nature. It involves:
- Distributing VACCIN windshield stickers with the VACCIN logo and a reminder to use other options to get home after drinking: designated driver, ride service, or taxi
- Spontaneous checks of drivers and arrest of anyone found to be impaired
The Sûreté du Québec wants all citizens to know that they are welcome to celebrate in the coming holiday season, but that driving after celebrating is not an option.
The slogan they are using is célébrez sans déraper – “Celebrate without Slipping.”
Ultimately, prevention is the key to fixing any public health problem, and influencing behaviour is key to bringing down the number of impaired driving collisions. Wine and celebration are integral to life in Québec, and so must the idea of avoiding driving after those celebrations.
Canada in general has had bad news of late, leading all nations in the percent of its road fatalities that are impairment-related. More than 33 percent of road deaths involve alcohol, as opposed to the average of 19 percent in developed countries.
Québec, however, has a comparatively low fatality rate – 4.1 per 100,000 people, lower than the national average of 5.2 and third lowest among all the provinces and territories. Highest was Saskatchewan, with 11.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
This low rate comes despite Québec’s refusal to adopt a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) limit lower than .08, automatic licence suspension or vehicle impoundment for DUI, or a 3-year ignition interlock requirement for repeat drunk driving offenders.
Clearly the problem of drunk driving is complex, and Québec is finding that the immunization approach is effective. Perhaps the province will adopt some of the other enhancements as well. A good anti-impaired driving program can always use a shot in the arm.