As they began to promote safe celebration habits this coming Christmas season in a news release earlier this week, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced they’re taking “a rare step” in 2013-14: Thanking motorists in advance for abstaining from drinking.
The OPP’s annual Festive R.I.D.E. (Reducing Impaired Driving Everywhere) program begins Friday, Nov. 23 and runs through Jan. 2, 2014. Watch for officers setting up roadside checks at various locations throughout St. Marys and Perth County, checking on the sobriety of drivers and making it known to motorists that there will be zero tolerance for the consumption of alcohol prior to driving.
“The reason for the early thank you is because the OPP knows that the vast majority of drivers do understand that enforcement is only part of the solution, and that driving sober is the single most important factor in ending the numerous impaired driving related deaths that occur on Ontario roads every year,” offered an OPP news release on Monday. “The OPP considers these drivers to be among their most dedicated road safety partners because they share the responsibility of saving lives on our roads through responsible driving behaviour.”
The news release certainly didn’t feature your typical OPP-style language. Indeed, it must have either represented a welcome change for the provincial force’s public relations writers (if they’re into that type of thing), or an almost insurmountable challenge to step away from the usual “people just don’t seem to be getting the message” approach so often used by the OPP.
There’s a chance it’s exactly what’s needed to catch peoples’ attention. But it’s a slim chance. Most likely, by contrast, it’s more of a last-straw approach: The OPP has been trying over the years to get the message through, and it just doesn’t seem to be working.
So this holiday season, give the police (and paramedics and firefighters) a break from the stress of thinking they might be on duty the next time a car crosses the centre line into the path of another vehicle, or misses a Stop sign and causes a collision, or slips off an icy road into a creek. Reduce the chances such an incident will happen by choosing not to drink and drive.
It’s a message that, later on in this week’s news release, the OPP reverts to despite their initial “thankful” approach. And certainly, with their experience, they say it better than anyone:
“I am calling on all road users to help us keep everyone safe over the holidays. Never allow yourself to drink and drive, never allow someone you suspect is impaired by alcohol or drugs to drive, and if you are out on the road and suspect that a driver is impaired, call 9-1-1,” said Chief Superintendent Don Bell, Commander of the OPP’s Highway Safety Division.