The fight against impaired driving has taken another stride forward this week. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada announced a new branch in Yellowknife along with a new community leader.
The national charitable organization – which fights to prevent drunk driving and offers support to victims – announced Megan Chafe as its new local leader.
“I am starting from scratch at an organization that I have never actually volunteered at before,” said Chafe.
She added that her passion for the cause is highly personal. “I had an uncle who was killed by a drunk driver almost three years ago. I went to the trial a little over a year ago and that kind of made me realize I wanted to volunteer and support other victims of drunk driving. As soon as a member of your family or a friend is killed in such an act … it is the worst feeling. You want to prevent it from happening to somebody else.”
Chafe said though the organization is in its infancy she is reaching out to the public to see how MADD can benefit the community. According to MADD Canada, the organization has more than 100 volunteer-driven groups across Canada, including one in Fort Simpson. But, to date there has been no offices started in Yellowknife.
“It was shocking to me that there was no MADD Yellowknife because the North has one of the highest rates of drunk driving in Canada,” she said.
She hopes to provide support for victims, push education and advocacy efforts in the schools and the community and said she has been in contact with Sharon Allen, the leader of the Fort Simpson branch.
Perhaps the most well known activity of MADD Canada is Project Red Ribbon, which is a yearly campaign that distributes a red ribbon to people to allow them to publicly display their commitment to sober driving. This year’s national campaign will take place from Nov. 1 to Jan. 7, 2019 and Chafe says she hopes to be able to have a local campaign running with ribbons and pamphlets.
Chafe says that although cannabis consumption became legal on Oct. 17, that being named to the position was entirely coincidental and that she has been an advocate for impaired driving for many years.
The Yellowknife RCMP had not heard about the launch of the new group as of Thursday, but said having the organization present in the city will help in their fight against drunk driving. The police work closely with such organizations as St. Patrick High School’s Students Against Drinking and Impaired Driving (SADD) on prevention campaigns.
Const. Heather Cosenzo, a Yellowknife RCMP community police officer – meaning that she works with schools and community groups on prevention measures – said she is looking forward to working with the new organization.
“I think there is always a need for more prevention and education measures to be in place and I think it would be really great if there were a MADD program here,” she said, adding that additional help to educate the public about impaired driving and how people can make more informed decisions is always welcome.
Between 1,350 and 1,600 Canadians are killed by impaired driving every year, while another 68,500 are injured as a result of related vehicle crashes, according to MADD Canada.