Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Oblivious: Drunk-Driving Decisions

"The CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control does the best studies; their information is undebatable."
"It's a wake-up call. We need to do more."
Andy Murie, CEO, MADD Canada

"I will always remember the pain on this man's face when I had to tell him about his friend, and I would love to know if this tragic event has prevented him from drinking and driving again."
"Because if this sad event couldn't stop someone from drinking and driving, what could?"
RCMP Cpl. Janet Leblanc, Nova Scotia
NA0712_Drunk_C_MF copy

It is disturbingly common in Canada for people to think nothing of driving their vehicle after having imbibed one too many. Even unsteady on their feet, those who feel they are still in control, reject the concern of others to insist they are perfectly capable of getting around on their own. And far too often that personal decision has been impaired by an excess of alcohol which relates in turn, to traffic fatalities.

No one seems immune from this kind of irresponsibility. It is not only young men who think that laws that constrain others don't apply to them. This is a social malady that highly educated people, professionals, and celebrities along with youth indulge in. The mother of Canada's current prime minister was once arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol; apprehended before she became the cause of an accident.

There is the now-infamous case of a Pembroke-area dentist whose impairment due to alcohol consumption was so severe she could hardly stand on her own, and her erratic driving caused the death of a father of teens. In both those instances, Margaret Trudeau and Christie Natsis, influence and money helped to guide outcomes; Trudeau's case was dismissed, Natsis's was unconscionably prolonged as high-priced lawyers cast doubt on police and expert witnesses.

A U.S. study found that while fewer people were dying from motor vehicle crashes in Canada, the proportion of deaths linked to alcohol impairment was 34 per cent, higher than any of the other countries in the survey.
Postmedia/File   A U.S. study found that while fewer people were dying from motor vehicle crashes in Canada, the proportion of deaths linked to alcohol impairment was 34 per cent, higher than any of the other countries in the survey.

In Canada, it's not all that uncommon to learn that someone who caused the death of another person because of drunk driving had already acquired countless drunk driving charges behind them. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and government agencies at every level attempt to instill in the public an awareness of drunk driving, to dissuade the public from making such choices. Despite which Canada is found to be the advanced country with the worst drunk-driving-causing-death record.

It's always nice to hold a first-ranking, but never of that kind, and Canada must come to terms with the fact that impaired driving represents the top criminal cause of death in the country. Even while fewer people now die from motor vehicle crashes (2013: 5.4 per 100,000), the proportion of deaths with an alcohol impairment causation stands at 34 percent, quite outdistancing any other country surveyed.

That percentage is slighter in the United States, at 31 percent, decreasing to 30 percent for Australia, and 29 percent for France, while countries reflecting lowest percentages of fatal crashes related to alcohol were Israel at 3.2 percent, Japan at 6.2 percent, and Austria at 6.8 percent. The responsibility quotient is obviously seriously canted toward indifference in the higher percentile countries, with the lowest percentile having populations more disciplined in their sense of social and personal accountability.

The public safety minister of the former government has introduced a private member's bill to Parliament which includes a provision permitting mandatory roadside screening. Bill C-225 would as well impose a mandatory minimum sentence of five years as court-mandated sentencing for the personal choice to drive while alcohol-impaired, and ultimately causing the death of another human being.

In Canada, driving with a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.08 represents a Criminal Code offence. Police are allowed to impound vehicles, suspend licences and look to additional administrative sanctions to be imposed against drivers with blood alcohol levels that are just under the threshold, falling in the range of 0.05 to 0.08, considered a "warning" range. In several countries in Europe, 0.05 represents the threshhold.

Predictably enough, the American Beverage Institute speaks of that particular recommendation as "ludicrous", claiming that moderate drinkers would be unfairly targeted, and the process would "criminalize perfectly responsible behaviour", a stupendously puzzling claim since the penchant to drink and drive is anything but responsible behaviour and if 'moderate' drinkers consume alcohol and then choose to drive, their behaviour is clearly criminal.

On the website for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Cpl. Janet Leblanc wrote about an episode of such a poor choice she was personally aware of and involved with. Two close friends had been out drinking in a bar. Each left the bar and drove their vehicles while intoxicated. They were both involved in separate collisions. One of the good friends survived his alcohol-caused accident, the other failed to.

Postmedia/File   Police pull drivers over as part of Ontario's anti-drinking and driving RIDE program.

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