OAKVILLE, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 18, 2013) - As New Brunswick's Karen Dunham looks back at the progress that has been made in the fight against impaired driving over the past decade or so, her reaction is mixed.
On the one hand, improvements have been made: conditional sentencing for impaired driving convictions were ended; sanctions for drivers at the warn range (.05% BAC and above) have been strengthened; new laws and sanctions have been introduced to deter young people from driving impaired; and education and awareness efforts have expanded considerably. On the other hand, impaired driving continues to be a serious and persistent problem which kills and injures thousands of Canadians every year.
"I think we are moving in the right direction with the various changes that have been made, but the statistics tell us there is still much more to do," Karen said. "We need to do more. We need to look at other laws and sanctions. We need to expand education and awareness efforts. We need to further encourage people to change dangerous drinking and driving behaviours."
Karen committed herself to the fight against impaired driving after her son was injured in an impaired driving crash. She joined MADD Canada, helped to start a Chapter in Saint John, and served as the organization's National President from 2004 - 2007.
"There have definitely been some improvements over time and that gives me hope. But we can't say we have addressed the problem," Karen said. "People continue to be killed or injured in impaired driving crashes every day so we, as individuals, as communities and as a country, need to be doing more to stop this."
Karen will take that message to Ottawa on April 25 when she joins a small group of MADD Canada representatives from around the country in Ottawa. During National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, they will meet with select Members of Parliament to share their perspectives and to talk about what is needed to reduce the tragic impact of impaired driving in Canada.
MADD Canada representatives will speak with MPs about a 2009 report released by the Federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights called "Ending Alcohol-Impaired Driving: A Common Approach". The report contained a number of recommendations to reduce impaired driving in Canada, including: tougher sanctions for repeat impaired drivers, tougher sanctions for those with BACs in excess of .16% BAC, and random roadside breath testing.
MADD Canada and its representatives are hoping that the visit will lead to renewed interest in the Committee's report and action on its recommendations, with the end goal being a reduction in impaired driving rates in Canada.
The report was accepted by the government in principle, with Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson noting that the report "will greatly assist the Government in its ongoing efforts to make the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code more effective and to contribute to reducing the carnage on our roads caused by alcohol-impaired drivers."
Despite the acceptance of the report in principle, and the undisputed need for more to be done to stop impaired driving, there has been no move on the part of government to implement any of the recommendations in the report.
In the year that report was released, 1,074 people were killed in impaired driving crashes and 63,338 were injured. With those numbers as a basis, MADD Canada estimates more than 4,100 people have been killed and more than 240,000 injured in impairment-related crashes since the report was released and April of 2013.
MADD Canada's analysis of random breath testing, based on the experiences with that measure in other countries, indicates that random breath testing would prevent more than 200 impairment-related crash deaths and more than 14,000 impairment-related crash injuries each year.
"We are not saying that new measures will prevent all impaired driving crashes, but they will prevent some of those deaths and injuries," said MADD Canada National President Denise Dubyk. "There is more we can be doing to stop the carnage and loss caused by impaired driving. Random breath testing and the other recommendations in the report will have a significant impact on the reduction of impaired driving in Canada. We need to move forward on this."
About MADD Canada
MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads. For more information, visit www.madd.ca.