The local Lacombe MADD chapter is encouraging citizens to stay safe this holiday season.
Debbie Barron, Lacombe and District MADD treasurer, said the organization receives a lot of encouragement from the motoring public when they are out doing check stops with the Lacombe police service.
“They aren’t necessarily charity check stops but we like to get out to as many as we can with the Lacombe police and RCMP if we’re able to.
“Usually, we get a lot of support from the public,” she said. “Sometimes when we’re out doing a regular check stop, people will give us financial donations as well.
“All the money that we receive from the Red Ribbon Campaign and charity check stops, or regular check stops – it all stays with our chapter in Lacombe”
Meanwhile, the Red Deer Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter has been struggling to find volunteers, causing their annual Red Ribbon Campaign to lay low this year.
Due to the shortage of volunteers, red ribbons will only be available by directly contacting the Red Deer chapter by email or by phone.
“If people want ribbons, we can supply them. This year there is no other option than to phone the MADD office or email us because we just do not have the volunteers to campaign like we used to,” said local chapter Co-President Peggy Gougeon.
“Because this particular campaign has been going on for so long, people recognize it more than they do almost anything else we do. We have our candle light vigil and things like that but I think more people understand what the ribbons are for.”
Canada’s Project Red Ribbon runs through Jan. 5th. Citizens are asked to wear a red ribbon in support of sober driving through the holiday season. MADD has encouraged supporters to share images of themselves on social media to spread the awareness and use the hashtag #maddredribbon.
Donations are a part of the campaign and are used, according to the MADD Canada web site, to support campaigns and programs year round that include victim support, awareness presentations and youth programs.
“I think accidents seem to go in spurts. It seems to me that we don’t hear of any and then all of sudden there are two or three in a row. I still think we need more awareness out there and stricter laws because Alberta is a lot more lax than some other places,” said Gougeon.
“We’re getting better than we were. There are check stops where officers haven’t picked up anyone so I do think our message is helping some people.”
According to the MADD Canada web site, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 25-year-old people with alcohol and/or drugs being a factor in 55% of those fatal accidents.
Alberta laws regarding drinking and driving have changed in recent years.
Updated information explaining penalties, limits and offences is available on www.transportation.alberta.ca/impaireddriving.htm.
“There is no reason to drink and drive. It comes down to a person making a choice to get into their car after they’ve been drinking. You’ve just got to think if it is worth the cost. I’d just like to remind people to think about drinking and driving, to drive safely and to always plan ahead. That is the biggest thing,” said Gougeon.
Alternatives to driving under the influence include calling a taxi, designating a driver, calling a friend or family member or calling a designated driving service.
Those services are businesses such as, in Red Deer, Driver Take Home, where a person will transport the intoxicated person and their vehicle safely home. Other designated driving businesses locally include Flippers Designated Drivers and Sober Shadows.
The importance of the annual Red Ribbon Campaign around Christmas time is that there are more festivals, concerts, family get-togethers and parties that go on this time of year. Poor visibility and road conditions in winter can also contribute to fatal accidents.
“There are a lot more parties, a lot more drinking and a lot higher chance of this happening during this season. People drink throughout the year but we really push this message around Christmas.”