The RCMP held the official launch of the Report Impaired Drivers program in Thompson on June 1.
The program partners the community with the RCMP, encouraging people to step forward and call police if they are aware of someone who is driving while impaired.
Last year the RCMP responded to 95 crashes in Manitoba that resulted in 115 deaths, 34 per cent of which were alcohol related.
RCMP Supt. Brenda Lucki, Manitoba North District commander, based in Thompson, spoke at the launch, stressing the importance of this program.
“It’s impossible for the RCMP to be everywhere at once,” said Lucki, “and we depend on the assistance of the community to try to put a stop to impaired driving.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission are all on board as partners in the project.
Lucki made note of their support, while also thanking the Citizens on Patrol Program (COPP) for their additional sets of eyes on the road.
Thompson is the third city in the province to adopt this program, and with alcohol related accident rates in the city, it’s been a need for some time, police say.
“From 2007 to 2011, seven out of every 11 accidents in Thompson are alcohol-related,” said Insp. Joanne Keeping, officer-in-charge of “D” Division traffic services, “it’s quite simple, one phone call could save a life.”
MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie was also at the launch as a guest speaker, and explained that this program is in place to allow citizens to feel more comfortable phoning the police.
“The idea of reporting impaired drivers is not a new one,” said Murie, “it was once thought, however, that calling for these types of things was an inappropriate use of 911.”
Murie has been involved with the program since 2007, and he says that when it comes together, drunk driving arrests are doubled.
“Every citizen nowadays has a cell phone and can make the call,” said Murie, “it’s a 30- second call that can help double the number of arrests.”
The financial impact that drunk driving has is one that should be more than enough for citizens to pick up the phone and report drunk drivers.
Every year, insurance ratepayers pay $33 million on alcohol related offenses, explained Ward Keith from MPI.
“The numbers are right there for you to see,” said Keith, “over a third of motor vehicle accidents are alcohol related. We need to remove these drivers from the road before they cause harm to themselves and others.”
The personal safety of all drivers is a top priority for the Report Impaired Drivers program, but the image of the city and surrounding area are just as important for city politicians.
“I want to congratulate our partners on this initiative,” said Deputy Mayor Dennis Fenske, “our surrounding area is very important to us, and this program will make our city and region a much safer place.”
Citizens can call 677-6911 to assist the program and report drivers who may be impaired.