Drivers headed to the lake to start the summer will get an important reminder about the dangers of drinking and driving on their way north.
On Tuesday, MADD (Mothers against Drunk Driving) Prince Albert, the Prince Albert Police Service, SGI and the City of Prince Albert unveiled a smashed car display on Highway 2 North.
MADD Prince Albert director Karen Anthony-Burns has been with the organization since it began in 2014. She said the display is an important part of getting the organization’s message out.
“It can show the effects of what can happen if people drive impaired and it’s a very shocking visual,” Anthony-Burns said.
“There are no accidents. We can choose to do the right thing. We can choose to make a plan to get home safely and not impact anyone else or cause tragedy for any other families.”
Anthony-Burns said MADD considers the display to be a moving billboard. That means it will be in the same location for about a month before moving to two other locations—Highway 55 East just after exiting the offramp, and up by the tourist information centre on Second Avenue and Marquis Rd.
Anthony-Burns said they hope that will help them reach the largest possible audience.
“All of those locations do have a lot of traffic going by them,” she said. “We think that we will get the most impact and it will really have that higher visibility.”
Prince Albert Police Chief Jon Bergen explained that this display is another example of an initiative to make sure roads are safe.
“It’s a real visual reminder on the risks of impaired driving and again it’s 100 per cent preventable and unnecessary and there is so many options available,” Bergen said.
“As you head out to the northern part of the province to enjoy either recreational time away or otherwise this is going to be here to remind people to make the right decision after having any drinks of alcohol. Hopefully that will lead to safer roadways like the many things we have done that continue to contribute to safer roadways,” he added.
The first location is meant to target people headed to the northern part of the province and is a very busy highway.
“We just want to reinforce the message please plan ahead, have a safe ride home, don’t drive impaired, don’t cause anymore tragic consequences for anyone else or for yourself,” Anthony-Burns said.
“As you head out to the northern part of the province to enjoy either recreational time away or otherwise this is going to be here to remind people to make the right decision after having any drinks of alcohol and hopefully that will lead to safer roadways like the many things we have done that continue to contribute to safer roadways,” Bergen said.
Bergen said emergency responders see cars smashed up in a similar way every time they respond to an accident. He views the display as an opportunity to show people the realities of drinking and driving.
“We are really hoping that the impact of this crashed vehicle that people will see will make them stop and think and maybe start having those conversations with their friends, (and) with their family to, like we always say, have a safe ride home, and always make a plan,” Anthony-Burns said.
Bergen explained that it is up to people to make the right decision in order to arrive home safely after deciding to have some drinks.
“It’s completely preventable,” he said. “Someone making the choice to drive after they have been drinking is also making the choice to put other people on the roadway in danger and risk (the lives of) the other people who are traveling. That includes families, that includes friends, that includes anybody that is using the roadway.”
According to Bergen, PAPS has investigated 36 impaired driving files so far in 2021, resulting in 30 charges. Tips from the public through the Report Impaired Drivers (RID) program have led to 68 reports of impaired driving in 2021. In 2020, police investigated more than 100 impaired driving files and 200 RID complaints.
The vehicle was prepared by SGI and was not involved in an actual accident according to Anthony-Burns. The vehicle has already been used in Estevan and Regina, and other locations are also looking into using the display. With the province set to reopen on July 11 and graduation season beginning, it became even more important.
“We see that everybody is going to be really excited to be together again and we understand that,” Anthony-Burns said. “We are just saying make sure that you make a plan ahead of time for that safe ride home. Don’t hurt anyone by driving impaired.”
Anthony-Burns became involved in MADD after her son Daniel Carter passed away after being struck by a drunk driver in September, 2010 in Prince Albert. The driver was arrested about a week later after fleeing the scene, but Anthony-Burns said the still struggle with Daniel’s loss 11 years later.
“It still is impactful, as it always was, and it’s in our hearts all of the time,” she said. “Our hearts are broken.”
Her son’s death has been the driving force behind her advocacy for MADD. Anthony-Burns said she felt it would be a good way to save other young people.
“I didn’t want to see any other families going through something like this,” she explained.
After Daniel passed away, MADD Canada, who did not have a Prince Albert chapter at the time, was supportive to the family and sponsored the family to attend a national conference,
“There was so much support offered that it was really a wonderful part of our healing journey. That in itself shows the importance of MADD and getting their message out in the community. I want my community to be very safe, I want my community to be healthy, and I am hoping that with the work that we do with MADD, that that will continue,” Anthony-Burns said.
MADD Prince Albert will also have messages on the digital Second Avenue billboard encouraging people not to drive impaired. Those messages will run throughout June.
Also speaking at the event along with Anthony-Burns and Bergen were Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alanna Ross, Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave and Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller, who represented the city.
“I just want to recognize the emergency workers who came out here today, our partners with SGI, our local MLAs who are committed to keeping the community healthy and safe and committed to being here to continue to spread that message of making better choices and driving in a way that is going to get everyone home safe to their families,” Bergen said.