End impaired driving by overcoming a fear to confront

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Earlier this month, five individuals in the Waterloo Region were charged with impaired driving in the span of six hours. The police department acknowledges that despite general compliance with impaired driving laws, there remains a small group that choose to drive impaired.

Statistics from previous years signal a very slight decline in the number of drunk driving cases annually in the Waterloo Region. However, for a dangerous and easily preventable act, any number is frustrating and unacceptable. The statistics, in addition to expressing a discouragingly slow decline, do not include drug-impaired driving cases.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) claims public awareness needs to improve, and points out that people do not plan ahead when drinking and doing drugs. While these are certainly two contributing factors, there is more to the problem and to the solution.

Awareness campaigns are useful, particularly in targeting youth who have minimal experience with alcohol and drug use. Ultimately, the public is aware. Public awareness campaigns can and should continue, but we have reached a point where people do not believe they will be involved in an impaired driving incident. In order to get the numbers down further, in cooperation with public awareness and planning, the family and friends of individuals need to step up.

We all know someone who has driven drunk or under the influence of drugs. Many of us know people who continue to do so. Often, the people closest to us are the hardest to talk to about such things, which seems counter-intuitive since we should care about their well-being the most. It’s hard to have that conversation with someone where you get confrontational about his or her dangerous driving habits. However, it will certainly be more difficult to deal with the situation if the impaired driving you refused to address ends in tragedy for the driver, other passengers or society at large.

We should all work to proactively reduce the stigma around conversations about drunk driving; these are conversations worth having and they can work. We are slowly becoming more accepting of a public “no tolerance” policy of drunk driving, but we do not always deal with the instances of impaired driving in our inner circle.

We tend to view impaired driving fatalities as a problem unrelated to us until it finds a way into our lives. The problem has the potential to harm anyone but can only be stopped by doing what we can to confront the people we have access to.

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