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Operation Christmas targets drunk driving

Bridgewater hosted this year's awareness campaign that will continue through December

3 min read
caption Halifax Regional Police have charged a man with uttering threats of death.
Jessica Sundblad

An annual event raising awareness for impaired driving, put on by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, RCMP and local police called Operation Christmas, is taking aim at drunk driving.

The program, which has been taking place every year for nearly two decades, kicked off in Bridgewater last Friday.

Susan MacAskill, the Atlantic region’s chapter services manager for MADD, said they handed out bookmarks promoting safe driving and what to do to report a suspected impaired driver.

“We’re stopping traffic, asking people to be mindful of the harm of consuming alcohol and doing drugs while operating a vehicle, and to drive safe and sober,” said MacAskill.

caption Call 911 to report suspected impaired drivers.

MacAskill said suspected impaired drivers should be immediately reported to emergency services by calling 911.

In Nova Scotia, the fine for a first impaired driving offence can range from $600 to $2,000 and a one-year license suspension.

MacAskill said MADD recommends hosts monitor their guests and only consume minimal amounts of alcohol to make there isn’t a risk of someone driving while impaired.

Hosts should arrange for “designated drivers or plan to have guests stay all night,” to ensure safety of their guests, said MacAskill.

Susan Johnston works at O’Reagan’s, an auto sales group in Nova Scotia, and she recalls safe transportation during the holidays already being a consideration for the company when she began working there in 1995.

“We provide taxi vouchers for people to get home because if someone wants to have a drink, we want to make sure they have a safe ride home,” said Johnston.

“We have a holiday party with our team once a year and it’s an opportunity to get everyone together. The taxi voucher is good for that night and wherever you have to go, it’s going to get you home.”

Some companies organize transportation for their employees, particularly if public transportation isn’t as easy to come by.

Operation Red Nose is a program that sources volunteer groups to provide safe transportation in cities across Canada, but it has not operated in Nova Scotia since 2011.

“The secret behind Operation Red Nose is that we need a local non-profit who is responsible for organizing the program,” said David Latouche, a spokesperson for the program.

“Those organizations are responsible for finding the volunteers. We need to have one in each community where the service is offered, so that’s what we’re needing (to resume operations) in Halifax.”

Operation Red Nose operates in seven provinces from New Brunswick to British Columbia, working with over 100 volunteer groups in various communities.

Thanks to programs that promote awareness in Nova Scotia, such as Operation Christmas, there is a notable decrease in drinking and driving during the holiday season. However, Cpl. Dal Hutchinson, a spokesperson for the RCMP in Halifax, said improvement can be made all year round.

Impaired driving related charges rose to 75 last month, compared to 69 in November 2016, said Hutchinson.

“It would be very nice if we could get to the point where in July or August, our numbers are down to zero, but unfortunately, we’ll probably never see that.”

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