Not only are there more impaired drivers being charged on local roads than last year, nearly half show alcohol levels exceeding twice the legal limit.
“What’s most concerning is that the readings are so much higher with the impaired drivers we are finding,” said Inspector Chris Avery, Lambton OPP Detachment Commander.
“It leads me to believe that the problem is still alive and well and people are not getting the message that impaired driving is dangerous, unlawful and unsafe,” he said at Friday’s official launch of Lambton County’s Festive RIDE program.
Officers will be out in force 24/7, particularly between Nov. 16 and Jan. 1, to keep local roads safe during the holiday season. The annual Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) campaign occurs simultaneously across Ontario in conjunction with municipal police. Sarnia police have already started their holiday RIDE program.
Ontario’s Mandatory Alcohol Screening law allows police to demand roadside breath samples from any lawfully stopped driver.
Impaired driving stats are up 11% in Lambton County compared to last year.
Between Nov. 1 2022 and Oct. 31 2023, Lambton OPP charged 226 people with impaired driving, an increase from 204 charges during the same period in 2022.
“I find it frightening that 48%, or nearly half of those drivers, showed alcohol levels exceeding twice the legal limit,” said Avery. In the OPP’s West Region, which includes Lambton County, 18 people died and 124 were injured in impaired driving collisions, he said.
“Many of (them) were innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Avery added.
He spoke to emergency personnel and local journalists gathered under the Blue Water Bridge Friday afternoon and invited Erin Pollard, President of MADD Sarnia-Lambton to speak.
Pollard thanked the fire, police, ambulance, funeral and victim services professionals in attendance for their dedication to getting impaired drivers off the roads and helping victims.
“We’ve got the holiday season ahead when there’s all kinds of get-togethers that often include alcohol or drugs,” said Pollard. “Choose your ride carefully and plan ahead. Use Uber, a taxi, the bus or a designated driver so you get home safely.”
“When it’s time to go home, it’s essential you make the right choice,” said Avery. “Deaths result from impaired driving and are entirely preventable.”
He urged drivers to remember that no amount of alcohol or drugs is safe when behind the wheel.
“It’s important to remember that impaired driving doesn’t only take lives, it often changes lives, and never for the better,” said Avery. “Causing injury or death by being an impaired driver is a heavy load to carry, in addition to the serious legal ramifications and monetary costs including fines, fees, towing bills and insurance costs.”
If you know or suspect that a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, call 9-1-1.
“It’s a tough call to make but failing to call can have serious or even fatal consequences,” Avery said.
The local MADD chapter is not erecting its annual White Cross display over the holidays, said Pollard. The crosses, which represent the number of fatalities from impaired driving across Canada, are in disrepair. However, the display is a powerful reminder to the community and will be back next year, she said.