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Police kick off annual Festive RIDE campaign in Barrie

If you're hosting a party and someone leaves impaired, 'call police because it is more important to save a life than have a friend mad at you,' says OPP sergeant

The Festive RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) campaign is officially underway and motorists are again being asked to not only not drink and drive, but report those they think are impaired.  

The campaign runs from today (Nov. 17) until Jan. 2, 2023 and is led by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP). It involves a collaboration among Ontario police services to keep roads free of alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers. 

During the campaign, officers will be highly visible as they conduct RIDE checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the province.

The launch was held Thursday in the parking lot of the Barrie ONroute as officers from Barrie police, South Simcoe police and the OPP joined a representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Simcoe County and Victim Services of Simcoe County.

April Silk spoke about her sister, Ellen, who was killed in 2015 in a crash involving an impaired driver.

“This Sunday marks seven years since baby sister has been gone. If you knew her you would know how big she loved and that her love carries on,” Silk said. 

Silk speaks from the heart when she reminds people to plan ahead. 

“The small inconvenience of having to pick up your vehicle the next day far exceeds the major inconvenience of your family having to plan your funeral and all the trauma that comes with losing you," she said. 

In 2022, OPP officers in Central Region laid more than 1,700 impaired driving charges and investigated 450 alcohol- and/or drug-related collisions, of which seven were fatal and 109 resulted in injury.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said it was crucial to have the large police presence for today's launch event to show the community how committed officers are about preventing impaired driving.

“This is a joint effort by many across the province and all police services are serious about getting impaired drivers off the roads, for their safety and the safety of others,” Schmidt told BarrieToday.

“It is also imperative that if you suspect an impaired driver, call 911 as it is a priority call for us," he added. "If you’re hosting a celebration and someone seems to be leaving impaired, stop them. If they won’t listen, call police because it is more important to save a life than have a friend mad at you.”

Drivers are reminded that the mandatory alcohol screening law allows police with an approved alcohol screening device to demand a roadside breath sample from any lawfully stopped driver without having reasonable suspicion that a driver is alcohol impaired. 

Officers who have been designated as drug recognition evaluators (DREs) or can apply standardized field sobriety testing (SFST) are equipped with the skills and authority needed to detect impaired driving, regardless of whether the impairment is a result of alcohol or drug consumption, or a combination of both, police say. 

Schmidt also noted police are vigilant year-round, but are extra cautious during the holidays with the amount of parties that are held between now and into the new year.

Barrie Police Chief Designate Rich Johnston said there have never been more options available to get home safely by a sober driver than there are today. 

“Ride shares, taxis, Uber, public transit, and having a designated driver are all possibilities people need to consider before heading out," he said in a statement. "Barrie Police Service is committed to keeping our city streets safe; we have trained drug recognition evaluators and breathalyzer technicians available for those who don't plan and make the wrong choice to get behind the wheel."

Victim Services of Simcoe County executive director Marie McCallum echoed those thoughts. 

“Impaired driving is a choice made by a person who knows the possibility of irrevocable and life-long harm, but somehow believes this will not happen to them," she said in a statement. 

To learn more about the consequences and penalties of driving impaired, click here.