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Above the influence

author: jennifer fuller | contributor

Credit: pee vee via flickr

“All of these deaths were preventable. If people didn’t drive drunk, the victims involved would still be alive.”

As of Jan. 1 at exactly midnight, the new Saskatchewan drinking and driving laws came into effect. As the ball was dropping, ringing in a new year, Regina police were out waiting to catch drunk drivers, and what a perfect night to do so. Many people say that the new laws are too strict, but drinking and driving is such a preventable way to save lives.

In Saskatchewan, it has become the norm to let drinking and driving slide. Even in high school so many kids try to drive home drunk because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of having to get their car the next morning or are to cheap to pay for a cab. Realistically, we have all been there, but if you make the decision to drink you need to be ready to pay for a cab or the consequences of driving drunk. Kids aren’t the only ones to blame; many adults who know the risks still decide to drive drunk. Under the new laws, there is a zero tolerance for “new drivers,” which is people aged 21 and under, if you have a restricted or provisional license, or if you are part of the Graduated Driver’s License [GDL] program. If you are in one of these categories and you have any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, you will be suspended at the roadside.

You can also receive other penalties such as your vehicle being impounded. For people over the age of 21 and not on a restricted license or part of the GDL program, the new blood alcohol level is .04. If your blood alcohol level exceeds that amount, you can be subject to losing your license, and having your vehicle impounded. The penalties for multiple offences have also increased, with fines totaling up to $2,250 if injury or death occurs, as well as possible criminal charges. With driver ignition interlock costs totaling up to $13,550, these estimated total costs range up to $17,750. Drivers can also be criminally charged, and even serve prison time, depending on the severity of injuries or if death occurs. These are drastic changes from the old laws but Saskatchewan had the worst record of impaired driving in all the provinces in 2013. The amount of drinking and driving in Saskatchewan has dropped over the years, but the number of fatalities caused by drunk driving has increased. Between 2013 and 2014 the fatalities increased by 17 people from the previous year.

All of these deaths were preventable. If people didn’t drive drunk, the victims involved would still be alive. By cracking down on drinking and driving, families don’t have to suffer from losing loved ones to preventable deaths. Everyone has a responsibility to both themselves and others to keep the roads safer by taking a safe ride home. There are so many new options for a safe ride home. Some local bars have started free safe ride options for customers. Leopold’s Tavern and Victoria’s Tavern had free safe driving options every Friday and Saturday nights in December, while Birmingham’s Vodka and Ale House has made a permanent free safe ride shuttle available Thursdays to Saturdays.

Drinking and driving is preventable. By stopping drinking and driving, we are keeping the roads safer and saving lives. So, the next time someone you know tries to drive drunk, try to find them a safe ride home or offer them your couch, because you could be saving your friends and a stranger’s life.

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