It’s that time of year when seasonal festivities draw families and friends together and police forces launch their holiday road safety blitz to curb impaired driving.
This year’s R.I.D.E. holiday program officially begins today and runs until the New Year with increased mobile roadside spot checks on GTA streets and highways.
“There are needless deaths on the road each year due to impaired driving and they can be prevented,” said Silvana Aceto, with the CAA of South Central Ontario.
The CAA is the title sponsor of the 2012 R.I.D.E. CHECKS Rewards Booklet containing safety information and coupons, with discount offers for food, goods and services from various businesses and organizations.
Officers at R.I.D.E. spot checks in Toronto, on OPP patrolled routes and in the neighbouring regions of Peel, Durham, Halton, York and South Simcoe will be handing out the promotional booklets to motorists they stop.
“Everyone has to take responsibility. We urge drivers to plan ahead, whether you’re going to a holiday party or visiting family and friends make sure that you know before hand if you’re going to drink how you plan to get home,” she added.
With a 100 per cent increase in the number of impaired drivers charged in Toronto during the five-week road safety campaign last year compared to 2010, police say they’ll be looking to reverse that trend.
Toronto police routinely pull over around 100,000 vehicles during this time and in last year’s seasonal R.I.D.E. checks they charged 123 impaired motorists — drastically up from the 60 drivers arrested during the 2010 program.
“It’s certainly a large increase and I think it’s because we went to a more strategic and smarter deployment of resources at less obvious locations where more drivers didn’t expect to see us,” said Const. Scott Parrish of the Toronto police traffic services unit.
“Generally, if you’ve had too much to drink and you’re expecting a spot check on Eglinton Ave. you’ll take side streets. We have to put ourselves in the mind of an impaired driver trying to get home by avoiding the major routes,” he added.
Parrish said another part of the strategy is to move the mobile breath testing centre to another location if business is slow in some spots.
Although the prime time for spot checks is between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., R.I.D.E. stops are not restricted to those hours or just the holiday season. They concentrate on times and around events when most of the merrymaking and drinking goes on.
“There’s going to be numerous functions this weekend with the Grey Cup and over the next five weeks we will be focusing on R.I.D.E. spot checks, but we still have to look after the day to day stuff,” said OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford.
“Drinking and driving is still one of our top four causes of fatal motor vehicle collisions and some drivers still don’t get it, so with alcohol being such a huge factor we have to keep focusing on it,” he added.
The CAA and police urge motorists to consider the consequences of the bad decision to drive while impaired when a taxi, public transit or going with a designated driver is the wiser, safer way to avoid losing your license or causing great harm to themselves and others.
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