By: Reagan McSwain
Humber Colleges North campus hosted police officers from across Ontario to launch an annual holiday RIDE Program, Thursday.
“Humber has been hosting the event for a little more than 10 years now. The RIDE program actually started in Etobicoke so it’s only fitting that we continue to host it here,” said Humber College PresidentChris Whitaker.
“We are moving into the season of celebration and at that time of year in particular, people are very distracted when celebrating. If you’re going to celebrate, do it responsibly,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker was among many speakers, one who shared a first-hand experience with a drunk driver.
“I sustained a spinal cord injury when I was 4 years old because someone decided to drive his car after drinking 22 beers,” said Russell Winkler, of Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.
“It happened in the middle of the night, right after close. Someone just let someone get into a car and that was the end of the path my life should have been on,” he said.
“This is the first time I’ve ever spoken about my injury because of drunk driving in public, which was 30 years ago this year, ” he said.
“What’s the easiest way to save someone’s life? Take their keys away,” said Winkler.
“Nothing makes me more ill than when I turn on the newscast and I hear that overnight someone was tragically killed or injured by someone that was drinking and driving, high and driving or distracted and driving,” said RIDE founder Lorne Simon.
RIDE, which stands for Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, is being hauled out for its thirty-ninth year in a row.
“I wanted to do something about it – I thought this is a way I can give back to the community and starting a program with all the police services,” he said.
“If we can get one person that is drunk or high or distracted and driving off the road it’s a success,” said Simon.
6,500 impaired charges already this year
“We’ve already had over 6,500 impaired driving charges this year. Most of them are for alcohol but more and more of them are becoming drug related offences,” said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police’s Highway Safety Division.
“If someone is stopped and we believe that person is impaired by a drug, they will go through a series of tests. The person is subject to the same type of suspension and impound and criminal charges that you would have as would an alcohol impaired driver,” said Schmidt.
The new roadside protocol for possible drug-impairment is a simple three phase test.
“It’s a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test – a vision test with your eyes. There’s also a test with walking. Basically a heel-toe, heel-toe walking that line and balancing as well as some mental calculations like balancing on one foot and so on,” said Schmidt.
“It is important to raise awareness about impaired driving and educate the community about the consequences and dangers surrounding this issue,” said Jasjeet Bal, Manager, Department of Public Safety, Humber North Campus.
“By hosting this event, we hope we can emphasize the importance of reducing impaired driving and encourage our Humber community to plan their rides responsibly,” said Bal.