Impaired driving still an issue


author: taylor balfour | news writer 

no cold ones for the ride home Jeremy Davis

Even with new laws in place, Sask. still has problems

For Saskatchewan, impaired driving has always been an issue. At the beginning of September, impaired driving laws changed once again for the province, and the penalties are getting even stricter. 

“The new zero tolerance is for drugs, so it wouldn’t impact alcohol,” Michelle Okere, the Regional Manager of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Saskatchewan, explained. “Alcohol will continue to be the .04 for the administrative sanctions here in the province and zero tolerance is for drug impairment here in the province for the administrative sanctions.” 

The same as before, however, the law states that new drivers, anyone between the ages of 16 to 20, are “at a higher risk of crashing after drinking” according to SGI, and are under the zero tolerance rule for drugs or alcohol. 

With the quick-approaching legalization of marijuana, the zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of drugs comes at an integral time. SGI’s website explains that any drug, including marijuana, “puts you at greater risk of injuring or killing yourself, your friends or other innocent people.” 

Driving under the influence of both drugs and alcohol has been a large issue for the province for years.  

In 2016, SGI released a report on traffic accidents in the province. The report stated that 40 per cent of fatal driving collisions “involved a drinking driver.” 

“We obviously have a problem with both here in Saskatchewan,” said Okere, referring to both drug and alcohol use.  

“There are a variety of reasons for that in Saskatchewan. Part of it is that we’re a very rural province and we’re looking at a variety of different ways to try and combat some of the issues that we face.” 

She said part of the reason that Saskatchewan is seeing such staggering statistics is, in part, because of our rural location.  

“People do often times believe ‘I’m going a couple of kilometers down a back road, I’m not gonna hurt anyone.’ There’s that kind of mentality,” \ 

However, Okere siad that there isn’t one solid way to try and alleviate the issue.  

“When it comes down to it, there’s a lot of opinions that exist about how to end impaired driving.”  

`Okere highlighted the need for more stringent standards  

“Tough laws, we need more enforcement, more education, more safe-ride options, more graphic and hard-hitting public service announcements, and there isn’t really one answer, so we really do need a combination of all of these measures, and having the legislation in place is one of those pieces.” 

SGI’s 2016 traffic collision report also stated that in 2016 alone, there were 1,063 traffic collisions involving a drinking driver, and 498 victims of drinking and driving, with 57 of them losing their lives. This makes 45.6 per cent of all alcohol-induced accidents fatal. 

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