by Cedric Hughes, Barrister & Solicitor with regular weekly contributions from Leslie McGuffin, LL.B.   

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“Don’t Drink and Drive

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Slogans can be useful habits of the mind. For example, "Don't drink and drive" is a slogan, or should be, that people repeat silently to themselves and verbally to their teenagers. This short and simple message drilled into the brain by persistent repetition, as annoying as people may find it, might also be the single most effective protective habit of mind for driving that a person will ever acquire.  Because when alcohol is mixed with cars and driving, the moments of miscalculation, of abandonment, of silliness that can change a life completely are more likely to occur.

The continuous collective effort to minimize drinking and driving through education, regulation, legislation, and treatment has produced results: a new cultural norm (drinking and driving has become socially unacceptable behaviour), improved injury and fatality statistics, and better understanding of the complex topic of substance abuse. But statistically, alcohol continues to be a major factor in crashes.
A recent series in The Province Newspaper quoted a new report from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation: “Progress in reducing the problem of drinking and driving appears to have halted…Nearly two million Canadians admitted to driving drunk in the one-year period before September 2007…The percentage of motorists reporting they’d driven while impaired by alcohol rose steadily from 5.6 per cent in 2004 to 8.2 per cent in 2007.”
One recent noteworthy development was the news report of the imposition of the longest sentence ever imposed for drunk driving causing death in Canada handed down in early June 2008 by Alberta Provincial Court Judge Ernie Walter. The offender, Raymond Yellowknee pleaded guilty to 10 charges arising from his head-on crash into an oncoming car killing the driver and all her passengers—a mother and three little girls.
Mr. Yellowknee, while satisfying the criteria for designation as a dangerous offender, was found not to be an untreatable psychopath, and therefore was declared a long-term offender and sentenced to 20+ years in jail. Judge Walter also took the unusal step of labeling drunk driving causing death as a “serious personal injury offence” thereby adding deadly drunk drivers to the category of convicts in Alberta who cannot apply to serve their sentence under house arrest.
Also noteworthy is the recently publicized 176 page pioneering study, “The Avoidable Cost of Alcohol Abuse in Canada 2002”, putting a price on the problem. Although based on year 2002 data, the reports conclusions are likely to be consistent with current driving behaviour. The authors are researchers at the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. They recommend six interventions they claim will save $1 billion a year and 800 lives. These include increasing alcohol taxation, lowering the legal blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05, enforcing zero tolerance for blood alcohol in drivers under the age of 21, raising the legal driving age to 21, better control of bars, and better support for problem alcohol users from health care workers. This report is online.

Cedric Hughes

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abbotsford mission times

chilliwack times

richmond review

surrey leader

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