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

Monday, September 05, 2016

Drunk and Driving in Toronto

"When you choose to drink and drive, you're choosing to kill someone else's babies, like mine were killed."
"Like all of mine were killed [Daniel 9, Harrison 5, Milly 2, grandfather Gary Neville, 65], on a beautiful Sunday afternoon just after 4 o'clock [September 27, 2015]."
Jennifer Neville-Lake, bereaved mother, daughter, greater Toronto

"Our enforcement strategy is showing that the numbers are not going down. I think the million-dollar question is: How do we [send a message to] males between 22 and 34 to get their act in order?"
"Everybody knows we're [traffic police] out there, and we publish information about our long-weekend results or when we've had a bad week. How do you message this group to change their behaviour?"
"Clearly, the fear of being caught is not having any impact. If this group [males 22-34] are our biggest offenders and they're drinking at residences before they go out to bars ... you have to own what they do after they leave your house. If you can't stop the offender can you stop the location? If it's not at a bar and it's at someone's house, maybe the message needs to go to [householders]."
Inspector Randy Slade, GTA police force traffic bureau

"This really is one of the larger societal ills. This is a situation where I would probably be trying to challenge the public and say: You know what? This is not an issue that any one entity, for instance government or the police, are solely responsible for preventing."
"One of the things that really has to happen is we need a wholesale change of behaviour in the motoring public. There was a time that the public accepted smoking on airplanes. We're in a situation now where smoking as a behaviour is almost socially verboten, especially in public circles."
"We see a lot more fatalities that are related to speed in areas that are generally more rural and as a result have higher speed limits."
"In some of the more outlying areas -- the north end of Peel, Durham, Halton or even up as far as York -- when you talk about impaired operation, generally one of the aspects that leads to your significant and life-altering injuries and/or fatalities is going to be an element of speed."
Halton police Sgt. Ryan Snow
Peel police say they are reviewing a judge’s decision to drop impaired driving charges after an accused man's rights were breached.
Peel police say they are reviewing a judge’s decision to drop impaired driving charges after an accused man's rights were breached by not being provided with a Punjabi interpreter.  (Bernard Weil / Toronto Star)

The 29-year-old man, scion of a well-connected, wealthy Toronto family, was sentenced to ten years in prison when Marco Muzzo pleaded guilty to charges of driving while under the influence and in so doing destroyed four lives of one family whom he killed in a crash when he drove his SUV drunk, unheeding the danger he posed to others sharing the public highways with his blood alcohol level three times the legal limit, because he felt entitled to do as he wished, not as he should, and he has plenty of company in that dangerous attitude.

Last year, York Regional Police laid 1,029 charges for impaired driving, a substantial increase from the total 885 of the previous year, let alone the 717 charges for 2013. In York region of greater Toronto the rate of charges per 100,000 residents has shot up to 94, from roughly 67 of previous years, a trajectory that represents the "continuation of a disturbing trend", according to Inspector Slade. Of the offenders, 85 percent are male, mostly between the ages of 22 to 34.

And nor are Halton Region's numbers of impaired driving cases any improvement; they too are on the rise. Halton police last year laid close to 450 charges, some 100 more than four years earlier. The past decade has seen the rate of charges per 100,000 residents for impaired driving growing to 82 from 62 annually. License suspensions, criminal convictions, threat of injury, none of these penalties are viewed as deterrents in the minds of the offenders.

Even while Durham and Peel regions have seen a decline in impairment charges in the past few years, the two regions still share the distinction of having the highest overall rates; Durham coming in at 116 charges per 100,000 residents, and Peel at 104. "Every area is different. You have your rural areas and then you have  your business areas, so it all depends on what's going on in the area and the information that we receive where we can target things", explained Det. Const. Todd Gribbons of the Durham police services.

Only in Toronto's central location are charge levels diminished, where 48 charges were laid for every100,000 people in 2014 and 2015. Sgt. Snow points out that a lack of dependable public transit has a part to play in all of this; plentiful in downtown Toronto, but not in Halton or Durham where residents become more car-dependent because of the lack of public transportation availability as an option.

Ontario Provincial Police had a busy long weekend on the roads, laying numerous impaired-driving, dangerous-driving and stunt-driving charges. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

"I'd have no problems with what Ontario is doing on criminal and license suspensions if the death rate was falling with it. And it's not", observed Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, of Toronto's declining rate of charges. "It's a major concern, because there's been a dramatic decrease in Ontario's enforcement on impaired driving without the parallel decrease in deaths." 

York Police feel that drunk driving represents a problem which "shows no sign of slowing down". Leading Inspector Slade to despair over what can be attempted by authorities to turn the tide of drunk driving in the opposite direction: "Right now, I'm looking for the answer, and it's not me coming up with it. I thought we were beyond this", he said of a social problem not confined to Toronto, but plaguing society in general; yet of all countries, Canada in particular.

Canada topped a list of 19 wealthy countries struggling with the problem of road deaths linked to alcohol impairment. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention completed a study which indicated that Canada leads its counterpart countries in the percentage of road deaths attributable to alcohol imbibing and driving; in Canada, 33.6 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities involved alcohol, a truly unenviable record.

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