RIDE safe this holiday season

Local drivers should think twice before having a drink this holiday season — there will be increased police presence from officers of 42 and 43 divisions as part of the holiday RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program.

And that’s important because it makes the community safer, says Sgt Andrew Raney, of 42 Division traffic, who points to a dramatic 25 per cent fall in the number of car accidents causing injury over the past few years.

42 and 43 division have increased police presence for the holiday season. Photo courtesy of: Const. Lee Bishop, RIDE coordinator for Toronto Police.

“People in the division can expect to see extra RIDE spot checks in places they don’t anticipate,” Raney says.

While the program runs all year round, most divisions devote half or one-third of their resources to it during the holidays, says Const. Lee Bishop, RIDE coordinator for Toronto Police.

Traffic Services has been helping out 42 Division, double-teaming the area twice already.

“It’s one of the most preventable crimes [impaired driving], but it’s the leading cause of illegal death,” Bishop says.

“The month of December is very emotional and it’s a month to celebrate as opposed to going to hospitals and funerals.”

Raney says it’s not unheard of for an impaired driver to wipe out entire families.

“We’ve worked on greater enforcement and it’s paid off in dividends,” he says.

An officer stops a driver at a scheduled RIDE spot check. Photo courtesy of: Const. Lee Bishop, RIDE coordinator for Toronto Police.

There were 110 people arrested for alcohol related charges in 42 Division last year. This year, 149 people have been arrested for similar charges from the start of 2008 to the end of November — 20 as a result of RIDE spot checks.

Sgt. Mark Longmir, 43 Division, says they have arrested at least six impaired drivers over the last few weeks, most of them through regular patrols.

“Most people don’t know what the penalties are,” says Anne Leonard, executive director of Ontario Community Council on Impaired Driving. “They don’t know they’re taken off the road at .05 [about a drink and a half].”

She says people don’t realize what it’s going to cost them in terms of insurance and legal fees.

“It’s very expensive, the reinstatement process is thorough and tricky,” she says.

If you lose your license on Dec. 12, for example, you won’t have a regular valid license until February of 2011.

Leonard and members of the community group will be handing out home hosting kits at a scheduled spot check in the area on Dec. 13.