With the May Long Weekend on the horizon, MADD members and a few Prince Albert police officers took time out of their day to help promote safety to the next generation of drivers.
Representatives from both groups were at Carlton Comprehensive Public High School on Thursday, handing out an assortment of free prizes for good driving behavior as part of their positive-ticketing campaign.
The campaign runs in conjunction with National Road Safety Week, and with the May Long Weekend just days away, organizers said it was a good time to get their message across.
“Grad season is coming up. May Long Weekend is coming up. Their summers are about to begin, so it’s just one last effort to give them that reminder to stay safe and not drive impaired,” MADD president Trina Cockle explained.
The positive ticketing campaigns were first held in 10 different Saskatchewan schools in October 2016, as part of a joint initiative by SGI and local law enforcement groups. The event was so well received it was brought back for 2017.
Sgt. Travis Willie with the Prince Albert Police Service said they wanted to develop positive interactions, rather than just lecture students about the dangers of driving while drunk or distracted by cell phones.
While most students are a little surprised to spot flashing lights in front of their school, Willie said the initiative has allowed them to develop good relationships.
“They don’t just see the uniform at that point,” he said. “It gives us a little bit of a human face, and we’re able to break the ice.”
It’s difficult to know how effective events like the safe ticketing initiative are, because it’s almost impossible to measure the effect on decision making.
According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan had the highest rate of impaired driving convictions in the country, with 575 incidents per 100,000 people. That’s almost double second place Albert, which had an impaired driving rate of 314 per 100,000 people.
While all provinces have seen drinking and driving rates decline since the mid-‘80s, Saskatchewan’s decrease has been the slowest.
Despite the challenges, both Cockle and Willie remain hopeful that their message is getting through to students.
“We can’t put a number on how many people we may have helped, but you know the old saying: if we can help one person, then it’s worth it, and it really truly is,” Cockle said.”
“We hope the visibility and the interactions make people think about having that cell phone on while they’re driving, or drinking and driving,” Willie added. “I certainly hope that this makes a difference. Unfortunately, there’s no way to capture that.”
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