Feature Story                                                                                                  Tuesday, December 4, 2012

 

Road Safety is Everyone's Job

Initiative asks citizens to aid police in catching drunk drivers

Staff/Voice photos

 

Josh vanden Eykel reads a statement from MADD last Thursday,

 

hilliwack drivers will be seeing new permanent signage urging them to call 9-1-1 and report suspected drunk, drugged or fatigued drivers to police.

 

The City of Chilliwack, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) Canada and the RCMP Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment and ICBC joined forces to "RID" the streets of impaired drivers.

 

Last Thursday, Chilliwack RCMP members, Mayor Sharon Gaetz, Josh vanden Eykel, board director of the local chapter of MADD and others were on hand to unveil the first of 22 of the Report Impaired Drivers signs that will eventually be installed in high traffic areas. The signs are highly reflective and have an anti-graffiti coating.

According to a November release from the Ministry of Justice, the statistics on deadly crashes have dropped 46 per cent from an average of 114 fatalities a year to 62 in 2011. They say that this is directly due to the harsh penalties drivers face including the Immediate Roadside Prohibition Program (IRP) that was brought in earlier this year to combat the problem.

Eykel said drinking and driving needs to be stopped and the program will help "get the job done."

"People who make a decision to drink and drive, won't have to look out for the police, they'll have to look out for out and me and everybody else that they share the road with," Eykel.

"I've worked in other jurisdictions where this has happened," explained Bains. "It's very very good to have the eyes and the ears of the public who are on the road all the time, not just the police, making their community a safer place."

"You've heard recently that the alcohol-related traffic deaths are down which is a good thing. I'd like to hear someday that they're gone totally, so we're working toward it," he said.

"MADD has been running this project across Canada and they've seen great successes so we wanted to bring it in to our community," said Samantha Piper, from the City Engineering Department.

One of the portable signs at the unveiling is covered in the faces of people killed in alcohol related accidents a sad testament to the carnage caused by wayward drivers.

"They update it every year," Piper said.

Gaetz was appreciative of the effort to get the program rolling.

"Thank you MADD for doing this. It's pretty cool that the taxpayers don't have to pay for these signs, it's MADD that's done this, so thank you very much and thank you to the RCMP and of course the staff for their work on this," she said.

"When you're out driving, those people that are driving erratically, too slowly, swerving in and out, doing all those things, please feel free to phone."

"People will try anything," said Bains. "They have to realize that they're putting themselves and everybody else in jeopardy whenever they get behind the wheel after drinking."

Bains cautioned that it's not only drunk driving, it's also drinking and driving.

"It doesn't take very much alcohol to impair your reflexes and your decision-making, so don't drink and drive period. It's not a question if you think you're impaired, just don't do it."

Bains said the RCMP step up our enforcement over the Holiday season adding that because it's a year-round problem, the signs aren't coming down in January.

"They're going to be up there all year and we are going to do what we can to eliminate this," he said.

Bains says if someone sees something the need to report, to first pull over, then make the call with as many details as possible.

Mounties aren't asking drivers to police each other, just to report incidents and then let them take care of it.

When a plate number is reported, police can be waiting at the driver's home even before the suspect arrives there themselves.

Eykel says it's great the community is behind the program.

"It's not just the police that can do something about it, it's everybody. Just getting the community involved in stopping it is a huge step forward."

Operation Red Nose will be running Friday and Saturday evenings throughout December. Rides are by donation. Call 604-393-3000

For more information, visit www.madd.ca

Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice