It’s a message that has been delivered year after year – and will continue to be delivered as long as drivers need to hear it.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Whitehorse launched the annual Red Ribbon campaign on Friday, the 30th anniversary of the national effort to stop impaired driving.
A number of officials remarked that the anniversary is bittersweet.
Many tie the MADD red ribbon to their bags, vehicle antennas and the like to show their commitment to driving sober.
Jacquelyn Van Marck of the local MADD group addressed the crowd gathered for the launch at the Canada Games Centre (CGC).
She said there’s nothing officials would like more than to end the campaign because impaired driving has been eliminated.
“We’re not there yet,” Van Marck said.
She noted the determination of the group to continue the campaign for all the innocent victims who have suffered from collisions caused by impaired drivers.
Van Marck also stressed that MADD wants to work with governments, the RCMP and other organizations to encourage everyone to drive safely.
With the 30th anniversary milestone, many were recalling MADD’s start in Whitehorse in 2003. That happened after one of the local founders, Alvin Pederson, attended a Kiwanis conference Outside and was encouraged to get involved with MADD.
Pederson soon learned there was no Whitehorse MADD chapter.
Numerous people soon began working to change that, with the Whitehorse chapter gaining its official status in 2003.
Another founder, Jan Trim, pointed out that since then, MADD Whitehorse has hosted the Red Ribbon campaign through the Christmas season.
It encourages drivers to drive safely, and assists the RCMP at check-stops through the holiday season.
Among many other initiatives, the PARTY program is aimed at high school students. There is also the purchasing of equipment to emphasize the importance of sober driving.
Many speakers at Friday’s launch reflected on the dismal statistics showing the Yukon has one of the country’s highest rates of impaired driving.
“Yukon statistics are not good,” said Commissioner Doug Phillips. Everyone is at risk when someone who is impaired gets behind the wheel, he added.
He encouraged all Yukoners to take action against impaired driving.
Residents can be designated drivers, offer guests a cab or a place to stay or, if need be, take a person’s keys away to ensure they stay off the road.
Those who do drink should plan ahead to get a safe drive home, or to stay where they are drinking.
Residents were also encouraged to call 911 if they see a driver they suspect is intoxicated.
As Mayor Dan Curtis told the crowd Friday, impaired driving has a “huge impact on the community.”
He encouraged everyone to lead by example, and ensure that no one who is impaired drives.
Premier Sandy Silver said he’s convinced MADD has saved lives, and encouraged everyone to keep one another safe.
Meanwhile, John Streicker, the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corp., stressed that impaired driving is “just plain wrong,” after using words like “despicable”, “unjust” and “criminal”, among others, to describe it.
Sean Smith, a Kwanlin Dün First Nation councillor, also emphasized the importance of continued vigilance when it comes to impaired driving.
“We all share the roads,” he said. He highlighted the importance of older people modeling responsible behaviours for the younger generation.
Also noting that there’s still a lot of work to do was RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard. He described enforcement as a “last solution” to impaired driving.
Sheppard also issued advice for those who choose to imbibe to plan ahead to get home safely.
Those who may be hosting gatherings should not allow guests who are impaired to drive home, he added.
While enforcement is a last solution, Sheppard stressed, the RCMP will be out in full force over the holiday season working to reduce impaired driving.
Those at the campaign launch watched the Just One video, enjoyed some cupcakes to mark the occasion, and left the CGC with their Red Ribbons for the campaign.
Later on Friday afternoon, the SS Klondike was lit up in red to mark the campaign.