This year marks my 25th year in community journalism, and if one thing has made an impression on me, it’s the amount of pain, suffering and misery alcohol caused in the communities I worked in.
One of the newspapers I was in charge of covered a provincial courthouse that was quite a busy place, and a lot of that work came from alcohol. Typically, a community journalist writes 10 to 15 stories a week total. One week, my provincial court reporter wrote 13 stories just from court coverage alone. And every one of those stories, every single one, involved alcohol.
You can easily look at statistics to back that up. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, “Crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs are the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. On average, approximately four people are killed each day in crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs. In 2012, there were 2,546 crash deaths. Of those, 1,497 deaths, or 58.8 per cent, involved drivers who had some alcohol and/or drug presence in their systems; 476 deaths, or 18.7 per cent, occurred in crashes involving drivers with a positive alcohol reading; 407 deaths, or 16 per cent, occurred in crashes involving drivers with positive readings for both alcohol and drugs.
For comparison sake, 158 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2011, roughly an average of 16 a year. But you don’t see Jane Fonda crusading against drunk driving, do you?
However, from my experience, quoting stats isn’t going to phase the kind of person who kills someone drunk driving. I’ve said the same thing over and over about candlelight vigils too; the people who need to be at the vigil are usually down at the community watering hole instead.
I feel the best approach to reduce drunk driving (it will never be eliminated completely) is to show the impaired drivers the risk they themselves face, as it’s obvious from their dangerous behaviour they don’t care about other people.
Personal injury. It’s quite possible the impaired driver will be injured in a collision. Injury could result in time away from work or even losing a job completely.
Injury to loved ones. It’s not rare for impaired drivers to kill passengers in their own vehicle, including loved ones and family members.
Loss of license. Certain consequences of impaired driving often result in the suspension of the impaired driver’s license, and in extreme cases for years or permanently.
Increase in insurance rates. It seems logical that being convicted of a criminal code charge like impaired driving would result in increased insurance premiums.
Property damage. Replacing property the impaired driver destroyed could become quite costly, even including the impaired driver’s own vehicle.
Social cost. Some friends and family may refuse to associate with an impaired driver, especially one who repeats the behaviour or has killed one or more people.
Self-respect. This may or may not be an issue for someone who repeatedly gets convicted of drunk driving or has killed one or more people.
Finally, there’s one cost the impaired driver may want to consider. Others in the community are at risk from the impaired driver’s behaviour, but so is the impaired driver. Their behaviour could cost them their own life.
Please think twice before drinking and driving.
Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer. Readers are welcome to respond to this opinion column by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.