It might be known as the Festive RIDE campaign but sometimes it can be anything but cheery.
Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Dave Springer said police still see hundreds of impaired drivers over the holidays every year.
“It still fascinates police officers,” he said about how people continue to drink and drive. “We know it’s preventable, that’s the biggest thing.
“People still don’t seem to be getting it.”
The OPP, along with the Ottawa police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, military police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving were set to launch the 2012-13 Festive RIDE campaign at midnight on Nov. 24. The operation runs until Jan. 2.
“We want everyone to get home safely” this holiday season, said Springer. “One death is one death too many.”
According to MADD Ottawa, four Canadians are killed everyday while another 174 are injured in impairment-related crashes.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Springer, adding if someone suspects a driver of being impaired they’re directed to call 911. “We want the public to reach out … call it in.”
Gregg Thomson, who works with MADD Ottawa’s victims services and is vice-chair of the national organization, lost his son Stanley in 1999 due to a drunk driver.
“Lots of folks don’t think they’ll get caught,” he said. “Zero (blood alcohol content) is the only way to drive.”
People who are planning to host a party or attend one, and have a few drinks, should think ahead about how they or their guests will get home, he said.
“You can still enjoy yourself,” said Thomson. “Just find another way home.
“Do it safely.”
Police set up a RIDE check point on the eastbound on-ramp for the Highway 417 on Nov. 23, stopping vehicles, asking drivers if they’d been drinking and letting them know about the campaign. MADD volunteers handed out red ribbons to drivers to thank them for not drinking and driving.
Although drivers are more conscious of the risks related to impaired driving, police still see “thousands every year,” said Springer.
“Unfortunately, we’re out there 365 days a year because they’re out there 365 days a year.”
Last year during the Festive RIDE campaign, OPP officers charged 682 motorists with impaired driving and issued warnings to 583 drivers who registered between .05 and .08 blood alcohol concentration. The number of charges laid is more than double the 308 handed out to drivers during the 2010-11 campaign, according to the OPP.
“Officers are out there, looking for them,” said Springer.