I had thought impaired drivers were now held in such contempt that they were going the way of the dinosaur. It is no longer cool to drink and drive, as if it ever was. Still, the number of drunks police are nabbing every night is cause for renewed concern.
There has been plenty of focus in recent weeks on distracted driving. Much of that has to do with texting and driving, or using cellphones while trying to motor down the highway. Every day we see motorists chatting away, driving with one hand on the wheel, their mouths and minds engaged in something that has nothing to do with the traffic in front of them. Yes, we have to curb those practices, and progress has been slow. We must continue the education and enforcement efforts.
We also must not let our guard down in the other battle to make our roads safer, the one against impaired driving. While public perception is to treat impaired drivers with disdain and more of us have joined the fight, it’s hard to tell if we are winning.
Take last weekend. Between Friday morning and Sunday morning, on the Northeast Avalon alone, police laid 10 charges of impaired driving; one of the cases involved the same suspect, arrested twice in 24 hours. And one of the arrests was at 7:30 on a Friday morning on LeMarchant Road in St. John’s, a busy street that time of day, in the first week of school.
If this was a rare occurrence I wouldn’t be writing this column. I checked the Labour Day weekend. The RNC nabbed six impaired drivers in the St. John’s area then. Those charged ranged in age from 19 to 73, and the time of the alleged offences from 7:30 in the morning to late at night.
A few days before that, there was a case of mid-morning impaired driving. The Holyrood RCMP reported a 59-year-old man allegedly blew 2 1/2 times the legal limit when he was stopped before noon on a Friday.
This happened while a case that sparked outrage across the province was fresh in our minds. It was only a month ago that a motorcycle rider was killed after a collision with a pickup truck driven by an alleged impaired driver in the middle of the morning.
To those of you who care to drink and dare to drive, know we are everywhere. The lady pouring your drink, she is one of us. The gas station attendant where you pick up cigarettes on the way home, he’s one of us. The drive-thru staff at the fast-food stop, the server at the late-night pizza joint, the driver in front of you, the driver behind you, they are all part of us, the people who have decided to take you off the road. Gerry Phelan
Add to this list a man from Norris Point who was recently handed a 90-day suspension and faces charges for alleged impaired driving of a boat.
Or the case of a man charged by the RNC with allegedly driving an ATV while impaired in Conception Bay South.
The good news is that all these people are being caught; the bad news is that drunk driving appears to be as common today as it ever was. That is unacceptable. Many of us know someone who has been maimed or killed by a drunk behind the wheel. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), safety agencies, the police and media preach the “don’t drink and drive” message incessantly. The penalties are strong, and drunk driving convictions haunt people for decades, and rightly so.
Thankfully, we also have more undercover cops than ever before. I am one; your neighbour is one; you are one — more of us are reporting impaired drivers.
So, to those of you who care to drink and dare to drive, know we are everywhere. The lady pouring your drink, she is one of us. The gas station attendant where you pick up cigarettes on the way home, he’s one of us. The drive-thru staff at the fast-food stop, the server at the late-night pizza joint, the driver in front of you, the driver behind you, they are all part of us, the people who have decided to take you off the road.
We will find you, we will report you, we will arrest you and we will ruin your life before you take or ruin someone else’s.
Just ask one of the 10 people from last weekend how it feels the next day. People don’t brag about being an impaired driver. We do brag about catching one.