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Festive RIDE spot check program back for another year

‘You are making a difference,’ says MADD Canada national president Jaymie-Lynn Hancock, who’s the sister of 2014 impaired driving victim DJ Hancock

The holiday season is nearly upon us, and with that comes holiday parties — and possible overindulgence in alcohol or other substances.

To keep the roads safe, local police services and their community partners launched the Festive RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program Nov. 25.

They will be stepping up vehicle spot checks throughout Greater Sudbury from now until after New Year’s Day, looking for impaired driving and other offences and providing education.

Greater Sudbury Police Sgt. Blair Ramsey, who works with the service’s traffic management unit, said police of course do vehicle spot checks all year round.

“But there's just a bigger focus around the holidays because of people getting together, having Christmas parties, and we don't want to have tragedies on our roadways,” he said.

Spot checks are important not only from an enforcement perspective, but also to remind the public about the perils of driving while impaired, and that police are out there watching, Ramsey said.

Greater Sudbury Police Deputy Chief Sara Cunningham said that unfortunately, Sudbury police charged 338 drivers with impaired-related offences in 2021. That number is 252 so far in 2022.

“Road safety remains a top priority for us here in Greater Sudbury, not only for us here at GSPS, but our entire community,” she said. “The tragic and life-altering impacts of impaired driving is something none of us ever want to experience.”

She encourages members of the community to plan ahead if they’re planning on consuming alcohol or other substances such as illicit drugs. Even prescription medication can be an issue while driving.

“Impaired is impaired,” Cunningham said.

People can call a cab or ride-sharing service, use a designated driver, or use the services of Safe Ride Home Sudbury, which is back after a two-year hiatus.

Safe Ride Home Sudbury uses volunteers to drive party-goers home in their own vehicles. The service partners with Festive RIDE each year, with volunteers actually participating in spot checks and providing education alongside police.

“I get to see first hand working with the traffic management unit, how committed they are to eliminating impaired driving,” said Safe Ride Home Sudbury founder Lesli Green, adding that GSPS have “given us just a tremendous level of support and the best way to deliver our message and work together in keeping our communities safe.”

Deputy Chief Cunningham said the press conference launching the yearly Festive RIDE program is held each year on Walford Road, across from a play park named in memory of DJ Hancock, who was killed at the age of 18 as a result of the actions of an impaired driver.

Hancock’s older sister, Jaymie-Lynn Hancock, is now the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada.

“My family knows all too well the devastation and carnage that impaired driving causes,” Hancock said.

“DJ’s death still surrounds our life. The pain of losing someone so young, so senselessly, never goes away. But I stand here year after year, hoping and praying that no other family goes through what you've gone through. 

“Initiatives like these mean so much to my family, and they make a difference. They take impaired drivers off the road and make people think twice about driving impaired. And for that I can't thank these officers here today and those who will be conducting RIDE checks all throughout the holiday season enough. I hope you know your work is appreciated and that you are making a difference.”

Heidi Ulrichsen is Sudbury.com’s associate content editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.