Running from November 1 to the first Monday of the new year, the Project Red Ribbon campaign distributes red MADD ribbons to tie to vehicles, keychains and the like as a reminder of the deaths and injuries resulting from impairment-related crashes year-round, particularly during the holiday season.
“This is an issue can affect any family and really divide a family,” said Mayor Mario Zanth, reflecting on his own experiences. “As public officials, we at city hall have a voice so we have to speak up.”
Valerie Keyes, president of MADD Ottawa, was on hand to kick off the awareness campaign. Keyes highlights that the project isn’t about guilt or shame but about raising awareness and opening up the conversation about drunk and impaired driving.
“It’s about speaking to your kids, speaking to your neighbours’ kids,” Keyes said. “It’s about having a plan. If you go out, think ahead and plan to have a designated driver or take a taxi.”
The number of impaired driving charges in Clarence-Rockland has been on the rise for a number of years. In 2018, Statistics Canada reports there were 21 charges. That number has more than doubled since, with 51 people charged with impaired driving.
Clarence-Rockland also has a higher rate of impaired driving than the rest of Ontario, with 216.97 per population of 100,000 compared to the provincial average of 120.85.
Zanth was puzzled why Project Red Ribbon had not reached Clarence-Rockland before and hopes to see the awareness campaign return every year.
“It’s something I am going to keep supporting as long as I am in office,” said Zanth.
Residents can expect to see an increased presence of police on the roads over the holiday season. OPP R.I.D.E. programs will be implemented through the region. The OPP stated their R.I.D.E. programs and increased visibility isn’t about catching people but about raising awareness and educating residents.
MADD Ottawa is always looking for more volunteers, Keyes said. Those looking to get involved or interested in getting their red ribbon can visit the MADD Ottawa website for more information.