The Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter in Estevan continued its fight against impaired drivers in the community by hosting a town hall-style event Saturday afternoon in the downtown area.
The 300-block of 11th Avenue was shut down for a couple of hours. Representatives of the MADD chapter were present, along with the Estevan Police Service, Estevan RCMP, Estevan Fire Rescue Service, Estevan city council and Saskatchewan Government Insurance safety patrol.
Connie Hagel, who is the volunteer co-ordinator for the Estevan MADD chapter, said she organized the town hall to let people know about a couple of initiatives.
The first is the Report Impaired Drivers (RID) line. She is surprised by the number of people who still don’t know about RID, even though there are signs in the community, and it has been around for eight years.
“Leading up to today, I was talking to people about this, and they said ‘What is RID?’” said Hagel.
A lot of people don’t know they can call 911 to report an impaired driver.
“I can’t stress enough that if you’re driving in the city, or on the highway, and you see somebody driving erratically, and you feel this person might be impaired, pull over and call 911,” said Hagel.
As far as she is concerned, an impaired driver on the roads is an emergency.
“How would you feel if that person you saw killed or injured someone and you could have prevented it?” she asked.
The other purpose was to launch their “Impaired Driver Caught Here” signs. While they weren’t ready for the rally on Saturday afternoon, Hagel said the signs will be up in the community soon, in areas where somebody was arrested and charged for driving while impaired.
They’re red and large, making them easy for the public to spot.
“I want these signs out to show the public that impaired drivers are being caught, not just on the main streets, but also right next door to you,” said Hagel. “If there is a big red sign on the street, maybe, just maybe, one person will think before they drive.”
About 20 of the signs have been ordered. They will be rotated through different locations in the city.
“The chief (Paul Ladouceur) had mentioned something that we should do, something that is high-visibility, and between him and myself, we brainstormed them and came up with that idea,” said Hagel.
Hagel noted a lot of people in the community thought there was a MADD chapter in Estevan before this chapter was launched last fall, but that wasn’t the case. Their mandate is to make people aware that drunk driving is entirely preventable.
“Impaired driving incidents are crashes, not accidents,” she said. “MADD never uses the word accidents, because drunk and drugged driving are choices. They are crimes, and 100 per cent preventable, 100 per cent of the time.”
She hopes that if people think they can prevent one incident of impaired driving and not drive impaired, then she is doing her job.
Estevan Police Service Chief Paul Ladouceur and Estevan RCMP Sgt. Jeff Clarke also spoke to the crowd. Ladouceur said if the EPS is to make a significant impact against impaired driving, it has to go beyond police.
“If we’re going to have a significant impact on impaired driving, we have to look outside the box, and we have to start calling on the community’s support,” said Ladouceur. “It’s up to everybody in this community to recognize the seriousness of impaired driving, and more importantly, to report it to police.”
MADD volunteers have joined the EPS for check stops, and Ladouceur hopes that will also continue.
As for the “Impaired Driver Caught Here” signs, Ladouceur expects it will be an effective public awareness campaign.
Clarke said it’s great to have MADD in the Estevan area. The RCMP patrols the six RMs that surround Estevan, and he pointed out impaired driving doesn’t just stop at Estevan’s city limits.
“It goes well into the country and the RMs as well, so it’s good to have a MADD chapter in our area,” he said.
Once the speeches were finished, those involved with the town hall ventured out onto Fourth Street for a check stop. Motorists were thanked for driving while sober, and presented with gifts.
Additional check stops were held that night in the city.
MADD has been in Estevan for a little more than six months. Hagel is still looking for more board members, as she has just one, but she has about 14 volunteers, and more people have expressed a desire to help out.