Addressing Impaired Driving on PEI Will Require All of Us
Over the last, long months, all Islanders have learned the pressing need to work together in ways that promote safety and public health.
It’s been a long haul. But I think we are all proud of the fact that we have pulled together in ways that have fought the worst effects of the coronavirus.
However, there have been some pretty rough side-effects from the pandemic.
I think all of us are much more aware of some challenges we need to deal with as a province:
Too many Islanders and their families are suffering from the mental health crisis – and the lack of access to care.
We need new approaches to long-term care, so that the safety of elderly and vulnerable Islanders is a first priority.
Our addictions services need a complete overhaul: First with a far greater emphasis on prevention, and second on more effective treatment and post treatment programs.
In effect, all of those needs must begin with government action.
But there are areas that lay much of the burden on us – as individuals.
In part, I am thinking of the continuing problem of drinking and driving.
Anyone watching or reading the news recently knows that the number of Islanders being charged for drinking and driving offences is on the rise.
Of course, we rely on law enforcement and the courts to address these issues. But that’s punishment – not prevention. More needs to be done by individual Islanders, government and media to bring awareness to the severity of the issue and to change the drinking and driving culture in our province.
For 10 years now, I have been spending New Year’s Eve driving people from my area to and from gatherings, in an effort to reduce the incidence of drinking and driving.
But, I have another agenda as well. I believe that my efforts have helped to raise awareness of drinking and driving. But more importantly, I think the annual New Year’s Eve drives give me the opportunity to help to remind people that there are real alternatives to getting behind the wheel while inebriated.
And let me be clear: I have no moral objections to people having a good time. For most people, a few drinks is part of our social fabric. Done responsibly, a few beers or a couple of glasses is part of the way that we enjoy each other’s company.
But when we socialize with one another, we also accept a degree of responsibility for the well-being of our friends and family. In fact, I believe we owe it to one another – not only to protect each other, but to safeguard our larger community.
And I will tell you, there is nothing much more gratifying in the world on New Year’s Eve than to know that a friend or neighbor has gotten home safely.
I am honored by the fact that so many constituents in my community trust me with that task, and I consider it a deep privilege to spend time with people on many festive occasions.
But – and this is a large qualification – we cannot just rely on government to provide that safety to our community. We each have to do our part; to change our attitudes; to maintain a sense of collective responsibility and to do our part as caring members of our community.
In the end, my true hope is to bring attention and awareness to this issue. Individuals, government and media all have a role to play to ensure our Island roads are safe. The scourge of drinking and driving will end because every one of us has taken responsibility for our individual actions – while maintaining a sense of responsibility for the larger community.