The TTC and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have partnered up for the Project Red Ribbon holiday campaign for the winter.
MADD is an anti-drinking and driving organization that has existed since 1980, with multiple chapters in Canada and the United States of America. Every year, they run their Project Red Ribbon campaign “to promote sober driving during the holiday season” as “it is the busiest time of year on most social calendars and the risk for impaired driving is high.”
This is the 36th year of the campaign. It will be running from Nov. 1 to Jan. 8 across Canada. In Toronto, the TTC will be placing advertisements on 27 buses across the city that display the victims of impaired driving accidents with their face, name and age at time of death.
The announcement of this year’s campaign was at the TTC Wilson Bus Garage with seven speakers on Nov. 1. The first three speakers were Chief People officer Shakira Naraine, Toronto Police Superintendent Kelly Skinner and OPP Inspector Dave McLagen. Skinner and McLagen brought to light the current statistics for impaired driving.
“As of October the 23rd, the Toronto Police Service has received more than 6,000 calls for service for impaired driving, which represents a 5 per cent increase over 2022,” says Skinner. “And so far this year, we did have approximately 52 motor vehicle collisions with impaired operation arrests and charges and more than 2000 charges related to care operations.”
Impaired driving calls and accidents extend past Toronto to the rest of the Province. McLagen says that the OPP found that 39 people have died due to “alcohol and drug related collisions” in 2023. McLagen says that in the last five years the total number of deaths is 303.
“303 human beings who lost their lives, many of whom are not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but who died because someone else was. 303 families who lost a loved one in a collision that was completely preventable…303 instances in which officers had a knock on the door to deliver the devastating news that their loved one was killed in a collision,” says McLagen.
With the increase of impaired driving, speakers gave out alternatives for people to get home safe when impaired. Toronto EMS Deputy Chief Jamie Burnett and Deputy Fire Chief Paul Fitzgerald say that 100 per cent of impaired driving accidents are preventable. They both recommend planning ahead to avoid getting behind the wheel.
“Toronto Fire Services has responded to a motor vehicle accident that does involve alcohol and or drugs,” says Fitzgerald. “It just takes some planning farther than the motorist. Stay the night. Designate a sober driver, use public transportation, take a taxi or a vehicle for hire. There’s lots of solutions and options available.”
MADD Toronto Chapter Director of Victim Services Carolyn Swinson and MADD Toronto Chapter president Bob Carreau were also in attendance. To bring a face to the number, Carreau shared a personal story regarding the loss of his son. Carreau says that in Nov. 2020 in Muskoka an impaired driver hit and killed his son, leaving behind a wife and four kids.
“This didn’t have to happen. It wasn’t an accident. The driver that morning made the decision to get in that car. Even though he was impaired. His blood alcohol was at a very high level and yet he still thought it would be alright to drive. That decision was a reckless, irresponsible decision that took the life of this innocent and beautiful man. And my son’s story is just one story.”
Listen to the story below: