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Red Ribbon campaign launched

BY KEITH LACEY While the numbers are declining, drunk driving continues to be the number one killer of teenagers in Canada and several students at Marymount College are doing their part to try and change this.
Marymount students show Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield their "life chain." By Keith Lacey.


While the numbers are declining, drunk driving continues to be the number one killer of teenagers in Canada and several students at Marymount College are doing their part to try and change this.

Four Marymount students, who belong to the Ontario Community Council of Impaired Driving (OCCID), proudly displayed a "life chain" to Ontario Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield and members of Sudbury's award-winning Action Sudbury team to officially kick-off Greater Sudbury's 18th Annual Red Ribbon Campaign Friday morning at the Travelodge Hotel.

There were more than 560 paper rings connected together to form the life chain as every single student at Marymount College participated, said student Julie Kohansky.

The fact drunk driving remains the number one killer of young people in this country is frightening, even though statistics indicate the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by alcohol-related driving has diminished significantly over the past decade, she said.

Ron Roy, chair of Action Sudbury, said the memory of former Greater Sudbury mayor Peter Wong lives on as Wong was responsible for starting up the organization and raising awareness about the serious problems caused by drinking and driving back in 1984.

Action Sudbury is a non-profit community organization comprised of individuals and agencies who share the common goal to eliminate the tragedies caused by impaired drivers in the Greater Sudbury area, said Roy.

The red ribbon campaign involves Action Sudbury volunteers distributing red ribbons to thousands of residents, businesses and organizations throughout Greater Sudbury during the Christmas season. A red ribbon tied to a motor vehicle shows respect for the thousands of Canadians who have lost their lives or who have been injured due to preventable, alcohol-related crashes, said Roy.

The campaign showcases a commitment by Canadians to drive safe and sober and impaired driving deaths and injuries are needless tragedies and totally preventable, said Roy.

"But the fight to end impaired driving does not stop once the holiday decorations come down," said Roy, noting many supporters leave their red ribbons on their vehicles year-round.

The sad fact is more than three Canadians are killed every single day, on average, in an alcohol-related incident and more than 100 are injured, said Roy.

Tens of thousands of lives are devastated as family members, friends, co-workers and loved ones are deeply affected when someone is killed or seriously injured so senselessly, he said.

The costs to the Canadian health care system as a result of incidents caused by drunk drivers is in the billions of dollars, he said.

The only good news is the message to stop drunk driving across Canada is paying off as statistics clearly indicate the number of incidents is rapidly declining, said Roy.

In 2003 in Greater Sudbury, there were 182 impaired driving charges laid, but three people were killed and 20 others injured in alcohol-related incidents, he said.

In 2004, the number of impaired charges was reduced to 173, with one death and 30 injuries. In 2005, a total of 194 impaired charges were laid, but there wasn't a single death and 22 injuries were reported.

Back in 2000, close to 300 impaired driving charges were laid locally, said Roy.

No amount of publicity or public awareness will make a significant impact if parent's don't show their children how to act responsibly, said Roy.

When a child sees his parents their friends drink heavily at a party of function and then get behind the wheel and drive home, it sends a terrible and powerful message, said Roy.

"The message for this year's campaign is set an example and be responsible," he said.

Shelley Timms, a lawyer and president of OCCID, said she's handled dozens of civil lawsuits resulting from drunk driving cases, and agrees the devastation and impact on lives is overwhelming.

Even though the number of incidents is decreasing, hundreds are being killed and thousands of lives being shattered because of drunk driving, she said.

When you consider the numbers killed and those seriously injured with spinal cord, brain injuries and severe trauma and the impact on  family members and friends, the devastation caused remains mind-boggling, said Timms.

Cansfield said having a few drinks and getting behind the wheel has not been socially acceptable for years and campaigns like this are important is keeping this issue in the minds of the public.

"The bottom line is drinking and driving is simply irresponsible behaviour and unacceptable in our society," she said.

Ontario is proud to have some of the harshest penalties for those convicted of impaired driving in North America, said Cansfield.

Next to automatic suspension of driving privileges, the costs of insurance, court costs,  attending remedial school and installing ignition devices can be in the range of $20,000 to $30,000, she said.

"But tough laws and penalties are only part of the solution," she said.

Organizations like Action Sudbury and OCCID are doing great work and the Red Ribbon Campaign is a wonderful idea which must be supported, she said.

Any incident involving a drunk driver is not an accident, but a preventable situation which could have been avoided and this message must continue to be pushed, she said.


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