It was the night before her high school prom. Rowen Reid of Ajax made the final preparations for the big night. But first, she had to drive a car home from her grandparent’s. What could go wrong?
May 28, 2014. According to Reid, the skies were clear with some clouds floating around here and there. She stopped, waiting to turn left on Salem and Taunton Roads in Ajax. As she turned, a large car ran the light and plowed into Reid’s vehicle head on.
The impact left the 18-year-old with a fractured sternum and a broken bone in her arm that was so severe it punctured her skin.
The driver of the other vehicle had been drinking. His girlfriend owned the car and let her boyfriend drive it even though he had a suspended license. After the collision, he tried to switch seats with her.
While he tried to escape charges, she laid in a hospital bed.
“I was taken to hospital where I had to have surgery on my arm and have two plates permanently placed in my arm,” says Reid. “Of course, I missed my prom.”
Impaired driving charges have bounced up and down since 2012 with Durham Region’s highest totals coming last year. According to Durham Regional Police (DRPS), 809 impaired driving charges were handed out in 2015 compared to 908 in 2016.
This, just months after an Ontario man was convicted of killing three children and their grandfather while driving drunk.
DRPS conducted its annual Festive Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (R.I.D.E.) campaign over the past holiday season. Over a seven-week period, 99 motorists were charged with drinking and driving, 19 fewer than last year.
Over that span, almost no young people aged between 18-22 were charged with the offence, according to Durham police.
Dave Selby, director of corporate communications for DRPS, is satisfied with the progress of the program on some levels.
“We were quite happy that anyone in the category between 18-22 weren’t caught,” he says. “Kids in that generation got the message and realize it’s not something you do. It used to be one of our biggest categories so that’s an improvement.”
He says the biggest problem right now isn’t the youngest drivers.
“We found that we were catching those aged 25, 26, all the way up to middle-aged adults on a fairly regular basis,” says Selby.
Selby says younger millennial drivers had more exposure to anti-drinking and driving messages, which may explain their lower numbers.
Now, more testing for impaired driving could be on the way. With the legalization of marijuana looming, police forces will potentially have more help on the road.
“The federal government wants to supply police the tools to properly scientifically measure drugs and not just alcohol,” says Selby. “We’d like to have something in place before the legislation being enacted in terms of [detecting] smaller quantities.”
Several new devices are currently being tested in Europe that agencies such as DRPS hope to take advantage of.
Danielle Oliveria, chapter administrative assistant at MADD Durham Region, is frustrated. She has also seen a change in impaired driving and not for the good.
“You’ll notice over the last year more people have been driving impaired,” says Oliveria. “I’d like to say our numbers are decreasing, but we can’t right now.”
Oliveria says detecting impaired driving is huge reason why charges have gone up in recent years.
For some, such as Rowen Reid, this is disappointing. But she says MADD can be useful for telling stories, especially for people like her who have been affected but haven’t seen justice.
“The police were going to charge him with drinking and driving but he was just [under] the legal limit and was only charged for driving with a suspended license,” says Reid. “I still deal with effects from the accident today.”
Now, over two years later, Reid has accepted what happened and hopes more people watch what they consume before driving a vehicle.
“Make sure you’re an advocate for yourself and those around for not driving under the influence,” says Reid. “People need to realize it’s not OK.”
- Files provided by Devarsh Oza.