At the beginning of this month, the RCMP launched its annual Christmas season campaign against impaired driving.

It happens every year at this time, the RCMP announces that it will be stepping up its efforts to catch impaired drivers from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1.

The announcement is sort of routine because we all have heard it for many years, and sometimes you just skip right over the stats that the Mounties provide from the previous Operation Gingerbread.

Well, this year we stopped and actually thought about it, and maybe everyone else should also give it some consideration.

Last year during Operation Gingerbread, 22 motorists were charged with impaired driving in the NWT after the RCMP checked almost 1,500 vehicles.

That raw number of 22 motorists charged is kind of startling when you think about it.

If the RCMP caught 22 impaired drivers last Christmas season, how many were actually on the road? The mind reels with the thought of how many there really are.

Actually, the RCMP numbers allow us to do the math to give us a rough idea of how many impaired drivers may be on NWT roads. If the police checked almost 1,500 vehicles and found 22 impaired drivers that works out to one impaired driver for about every 68 vehicles.

It’s a good bet that there’s an impaired driver trying to navigate the roads in Hay River right now, and who knows how many in a place as big as Yellowknife.

If that gives you a sense of unease, it should. Basically, a vehicle driven by an impaired driver could be a lethal weapon and someday it could be pointed at you or someone you love.

On Dec. 11 in Territorial Court in Hay River, there were seven impaired driving cases in various stages of legal proceedings. Let us repeat that in case you missed it, seven cases.

It is insane that there are so many impaired driving cases in Hay River every time Territorial Court sits in the community.

Actually, we don’t particularly like the term impaired driving. It’s too sanitized, too polite and too much government jargon that does not really call something what it should be called.

Impaired driving is really drunk driving.

There is really no reason – and no excuses – for drunk driving in Hay River.

This is a small community and to get from one place to another is not really that complicated. Ask a friend for a ride, call a cab or walk.

Then there is no drunk driving.

After years combating drunk driving with public education campaigns, it may be time to admit that they have been failures.

It may also be time to admit that the current laws have been failures. Tougher penalties may be needed to get people to think twice before they drive drunk.

We would suggest that the penalties start with an automatic jail term.

Either drunk driving is a serious crime, or society continues to legally treat it as some kind of unfortunate misadventure.

We think it’s a serious crime and should be treated as such.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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