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Coming together for the Holidays also means having tough conversations about impaired driving

December 9, 2021

As we grapple with ongoing issues such as the pandemic and economic challenges, one key learning has been the importance of coming together to support our communities – whether in person or virtually.

We have gotten better at having tough conversations with our loved ones about issues that matter, and our road safety partners at Arrive Alive External link. This link will open in a new window. and Operation Red Nose External link. This link will open in a new window. hope we can extend this spirit of compassion and empathy to a critical concern this holiday season: impaired driving.

“As an insurer, it is natural to encourage responsible behavior on the roads, knowing that impaired driving is dangerous and life-threatening,” says Valérie Lavoie, President and Chief Operating Officer, Desjardins General Insurance Group. Results from a recent Desjardins Pan-Canadian survey on driving behaviors revealed that drunk driving and drug-impaired driving – along with distracted driving- are among the top three risk factors for drivers. Meanwhile, nearly one in four say advice from family and friends would help to stop people from driving while distracted, a promising insight for reducing impaired driving as well.  

“The good news is that these risks can be prevented by taking responsibility, planning ahead, and having caring conversations with your loved ones.”

Impaired driving shouldn’t be a holiday tradition

It’s no secret that impaired driving – operating a vehicle while compromised by alcohol or drug consumption or a combination of the two – may seem more common during the holiday season when celebrations and gatherings are more frequent.

Since 1984, Operation Red Nose has provided safe rides home through a volunteer chauffeur service, which has been a key contributor in curbing potentially harmful behaviour behind the wheel.

“Opportunities to celebrate are more frequent during the holiday season and it is for this reason that the volunteers and the coordinators of Operation Red Nose are happy to be back to offer one more solution to get home safely!”, says Anne-Marie Audet, Director of Communications at Operation Red Nose.

Arrive Alive, whose mission is to provide leadership, messaging, and programs to eliminate impaired driving, has been operating since 1989.

“Driving while impaired can lead to a range of dangerous behaviours, including speeding, swerving, not wearing a seatbelt, distracted driving, failing to obey traffic signals, and even falling asleep behind the wheel – all of which can have devastating consequences,” says Pete Wytka, Executive Director of Arrive Alive.

Preventing impaired driving starts with a conversation

According to Wytka, it’s never too late to change your driving habits. Even in getting the message out to youth, many of whom have been fortunate enough to have never been involved in a “close call,” Arrive Alive aims to normalize sober driving through positive messaging rather than simply telling people their driving behaviour is inappropriate.

“The best way to have a conversation about impaired driving is to begin from a non-judgmental place,” adds Wytka. “A willingness to be open is key for both parties, because young people shouldn’t feel they need to go behind their parents’ backs to get home safely from a party.”

Operation Red Nose has a similar perspective on how best to engage in this conversation. “Our goal is not to dissuade people from consuming alcohol or drugs, but rather to provide them with safe alternatives to return home. This is how we strive to reduce the negative consequences of impaired driving,”

Ultimately, it is important to remember why you are having the conversation in the first place: because you care about your loved ones and want them to be safe this holiday season, which includes taking steps to avoid dangerous driving behaviours.

No matter your holiday plans, prioritize a safe trip home for all

Both Arrive Alive and Operation Red Nose agree the best way to avoid impaired driving is to plan ahead.

In addition to talking about impaired driving to help spread awareness, Audet suggests that drivers – young and old – can develop and exchange various strategies. Some examples include calling a taxi or a friend, staying overnight, identifying a designated driver, and using Operation Red Nose’s chauffeur service.

Making a plan before you even begin to consume alcohol or drugs is vital to ensuring you don’t end up in a dangerous situation. One of Arrive Alive’s programs, in partnership with police services across Ontario, called R.I.D.E (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) focuses on this theme.

“It can start in the kitchen with non-alcoholic drinks,” muses Wytka. “It can start in the living room when you invite your buddy to crash on the couch. It can start in the driveway when you say ‘Hey man, I think you’ve had one too many. I’ll drive you home.’ It can start when you plan ahead to have a designated driver.”

Road safety starts with the decisions you are making to protect yourself and others on the road. Make road safety a top priority this year, while you are celebrating the holidays.