High time to get drunks off road
We need to torque up the consequences for those who stubbornly refuse to get the message
Rob Clancy, Calgary Sun, Sunday August2, 2009
China has taken a new step in its campaign against drunk driving.
It has sentenced a 30-year-old man to death for killing four people while driving under the influence of alcohol.
We don't think that's what Mothers Against Drunk Driving had in mind when they called for stiffer penalties against impaired driving in the wake of a rash of deaths in Alberta last month.
After all, they're in the business of trying to save lives, not take them.
But the Chinese example, extreme as it is, illustrates the growing frustration with the battle to make a dent in the carnage caused by drunk drivers.
Out of 28 fatalities in Alberta in July, police believe alcohol might have been a factor in 15.
By the time you read this, those numbers will likely have spun higher.
The August long weekend is one of the deadliest and August is one of the worst months of the year for injury and death caused by drunk driving.
There is some good news on Alberta roads these days. Traffic fatalities and injuries plummeted more than 10% from 2007 to 2008. The bad news is impaired driving charges increased 14% in Alberta.
But the number of motorists popped for guzzling too much booze doesn't tell the whole story about the problem.
It's even more frightening that alcohol was a factor in 22% of fatal crashes.
As one cop who must deal with the aftermath of these road deaths points out, the statistics don't provide an inkling of the blood and grief involved.
"They're not just numbers, those are families that are affected forever," said Insp. James Stiles, who is charge of traffic services for the RCMP.
Police and groups such as MADD have spent years spreading the message about the dangers of drinking and driving, but many of these dangerous drunks don't seem to be getting the message.
The number of drunk-driving related collisions isn't dropping. No wonder MADD wants to see tougher penalties.
Spokesman Andrew Murie told The Canadian Press he'd like Alberta to follow the lead of provinces that hand out lengthy roadside suspensions for drivers who blow more than .05, even though the legal limit is .08.
Some proponents suggest lowering the legal limit to .05 would save hundreds of lives. They say the current limit allows individuals to drive after consuming a large quantity of alcohol and most police won't press charges unless a driver blows .10 or higher.
Lowering the limit to .05 would allow the average person to enjoy a social drink or two, but after that, they'd know they were in the danger zone -- either of getting arrested or killing or maiming themselves or another human.
The harsher sentences MADD has pushed for have made a difference, but not enough.
It's time to torque up the consequences for those who stubbornly refuse to heed the message that drunk driving destroys lives and shatters families.