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LETTER: Mandate alcohol detection technology in all vehicles

'We must prevent anyone who has been drinking alcohol from driving their vehicle and being on the road,' says letter writer
impaired driving AdobeStock_18871374 2017
Stock photo

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via the website. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to an article about an increase in impaired driving collisions, published April 2.

It was reported in the news that there was a 31 per cent increase in impaired driving collisions in 2023, and that a Gravenhurst driver was charged by police who were checking drivers as part of their RIDE program recently.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) now plan to enhance their impaired driving enforcement efforts under Canada’s mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) law, which came into effect in April 2017, after the reported 31 per cent increase in impaired driving collisions in Ontario. However, this is rather a late move by the OPP.

For the past 30 years, I have been writing to governments as I fully believe it is high time to have alcohol detection technology that measures the blood-alcohol concentration from the driver’s seat, through normal breathing, mandated in all vehicles in Canada. If the driver’s blood-alcohol concentration is over the limit, their vehicle won’t start, which prevents them from driving. This technology should be made mandatory in all vehicles and newly built vehicles as standard safety equipment, just like seatbelts and airbags.

We must prevent anyone who has been drinking alcohol from driving their vehicle and being on the road. Until that day comes, it is my hope all police services in Canada will greatly enhance their efforts under the MAS law on a daily basis on as many roads as possible to screen as many drivers as possible.

May 15, 2024 will mark the 43-year anniversary of the death of my 15-year-old brother, who was killed in a Highway 11 crash caused by an impaired driver, just south of Gravenhurst. As a victim of an impaired driver, it is absolutely appalling to me that people are still persisting in drinking and driving. My 15-year-old brother, Tim, and I were taken to the hospital, where doctors attempted to relieve pressure from my brother’s life-threatening head injury by drilling holes into his skull. Unfortunately, the resuscitation attempts failed.

Tim never knew what it was like to graduate from high school. A drunk driver snuffed out my brother’s life.

Drinking — and then driving — tragedies have devastated countless innocent families and communities. People who drink and then drive do not seem able to comprehend and understand it is not only criminal; it also should not be condoned by society as it is criminal to drink alcohol and then drive.

It has been 43 years since my life was permanently altered by an impaired driver and yet we still have to tolerate people who drink and then drive on our roads. Society should no longer tolerate this criminal behaviour.

My hope and purpose is, and has been, to prevent death, injuries and suffering as a result of drinking and driving in Ontario.

In November 1994, I founded Orillia Against Drunk Driving (OADD) in memory of my brother. Since 1994, a lot of work has been done.

When I reflect back over the past 30 years, with the countless and various public awareness initiatives, I don’t believe much more work could have possibly been done by OADD as far as trying to change people’s behaviour and make them aware of the deadly consequences of drinking and driving in Ontario. However, people continue to drink and then drive after consuming alcohol, which is appalling.

Doug Abernethy
Founder, Orillia Against Drunk Driving