“You know you shouldn’t, so don’t”

Sergeant Sean Harding of the London Police Service’s Traffic Management Unit said that is the message for this year’s Festive RIDE campaign.

Festive RIDE, an initiative funded in part by MADD Canada, aims to reduce impaired driving during November and December.

The program began in Etobicoke in 1977 and spread to the rest of Ontario over time.

“It’s a pretty simple message,” Sergeant Harding said. “You know you shouldn’t so don’t. Don’t operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs or any combination thereof.”

A black and white photograph of a sign for MADD Canada that says "You just blew $10,000. Please don't drink and drive." A man is taking a roadside breath test and an officer is holding the device.
This billboard is one example of the strong message to drive sober during the holiday season, along with the rest of the year

During London’s 2017 campaign, police gave 39 impaired driving charges. That’s after 7,261 stopped vehicles and 27 roadside tests. The goal for the 2018 Festive RIDE campaign is zero impaired driving charges.

In comparison, 2016’s campaign finished with over 50 impaired driving charges between November and December of that year. There were 11,000 stopped vehicles and 50 roadside tests.

It took Sergeant Harding some time to think about his answer when asked how seeing such results makes him feel. The results, he concluded, are tough to see.

“I’m disappointed that people continue to do this when they know they shouldn’t,” he said. “I can’t imagine any driver in today’s age who would not know that this is illegal, this is wrong.”

Watching a Festive RIDE shift unfold

During a Festive RIDE shift, a couple of officers line up on the road to do roadside spot checks throughout the evening, informing drivers of the campaign and checking to see if any drugs or alcohol were consumed.

A black and white photograph of a police officer beside a police car with flashing lights.
Officers working a RIDE shift are busy throughout their time on the road

Traffic builds up during a shift. There’s a brief moment of clear traffic before the next spot check.

Seargent Jeffery Addley said that up to 100 cars are stopped throughout the night. However, they try to make sure the traffic flow is moving as much as possible.

Since the officers are quite busy during the shift, there wasn’t too much time to chat. However, Seargent Addley took some time to talk about a roadside screening device known as the alcotest.

Detecting blood alcohol level

Consequences for driving impaired depends on age, amount of drugs or alcohol found in the body, license type, and previous convictions.

There are also penalties for those who drive in the warn range for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Ontario.

If an officer has a reasonable belief the driver consumed alcohol before driving, but there are insufficient grounds for an impaired driving arrest, they use the alcotest. The device gives a pass, fail, or warning score based on the blood alcohol concentration level.

A black and white photograph of an officer's hand holding an alcotest.
The alcotest is used to detect a driver’s blood alcohol level

A detected blood alcohol concentration level between 0.05 and 0.079 results in a warning score and a three day driver’s license suspension.

If the detected level surpasses the legal limit of 0.08, the alcotest scores a fail. The driver is then arrested and must provide two more samples of breath, at least 20 minutes apart, with a breathylzer or intoxilyzer at the station.

If both breath samples reveal a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, the driver faces criminal charges.

Preventing Impaired Driving and Planning Ahead

Since there are many gatherings during the winter holidays, the traffic management unit wants to ensure every get together ends with a safe ride home for every guest.

“Planning ahead is the big way to discourage [impaired driving,]” Harding said. “And not being afraid to speak up.”

He added that a group getting together should decide who is the designated driver, rather than deciding at the gathering. Harding also said that if you notice someone is not in the condition to drive, tell them.

Festive RIDE will run until the New Year.

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