Students of Ontario – it’s time to stand together against impaired driving. As a leading cause of preventable injury and death among young people, impaired driving is no joke. With end-of-year parties, proms, and graduations just around the corner, Students Against Impaired Driving – SAID – is planning a day of awareness on May 19. Here’s how young drivers can take a stand against impaired driving:
Know the dangers
Impaired driving means more than just drinking and driving. Being impaired means your attention is not exclusively focused on the road – and that means your reaction time is slowed and your judgement is off. Any of the following can cause impairment:
- Drinking alcohol. As a young person, it’s difficult to know your limit and understand how alcohol will affect your body as it grows and changes. The safest amount to have in your system before driving is zero; don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re just fine when you’ve had a few drinks.
- Both legal and illegal drugs can cause impairment; prescriptions, cannabis, and more intense drugs can all cause confusion behind the wheel. This is especially true when mixed with alcohol; again, the safest level in your system for driving is zero.
- Texting while driving, playing loud music, or turning to chat with your passengers are all distractions that take your mind and eyes off the road.
- Excessive speed. Driving too fast means you have less time to react to problems, and small errors can quickly escalate into dangerous situations. Stick to the speed limit, especially in rural areas and quiet times after dark.
Know your options
If you’re at a party this spring where there is alcohol or drugs – or even if it just runs late and guests are tired – use these strategies to keep everyone safe.
Crash on a couch. It’s always safest to avoid driving if there are any impairment factors at work. Get some sleep and head home in the morning when you’re able to focus.
Call for a lift. If you’re not able to sleep over, call an Uber or a family member to pick you up and get you home safely.
Have a designated driver. If you trust your friend group, choose someone to stay away from drinking and drugs, stay alert, and make the call when it’s time to go home. As a passenger, respect your driver by staying quiet in the car and agreeing to head out when he says it’s time.
Focus only on the road when behind the wheel. As the driver in your friend group, keep the music low, and don’t hesitate to remind passengers to stay out of your space as you drive. Give your phone to someone else to avoid temptation and always stick to the speed limit, even if others are not.
Here’s how you can take a stand and spread the word.
Take the social media pledge. Post on your participation on your socials – share a fact, use a SAID slogan, and let everyone know that you support teens and their effort to stand against impaired driving. Let your community know that you honour the memory of teens who have been hurt or killed by impaired driving by choosing not to drive when impaired yourself and encourage others to do the same. Use the hashtag #saidday2022 on May 19 to raise awareness.
Sharing information at your school. Whether you’re a student, a teacher, an administrator, or a parent, you can help spread the word at your local school. Ask your student council to organize an event, encourage the office staff to make an announcement, and hang up posters with information and encouragement.
Be a good host. If you’re hosting a party or event this spring for teens, make sure to have non-alcoholic options available, and provide food to help balance any alcohol intake. Stay sober yourself and keep an eye on who is getting behind the wheel. Provide a safe place to crash for those who shouldn’t be driving home.
Speak up. Lastly, say something when you see a friend making a poor choice. Step in to offer a ride home, a taxi, or a sleepover spot. Protect your designated drivers by encouraging passengers to be respectful.
Impaired driving is preventable and should never be the reason a young person loses their life. Stand firm and stand tall, and always arrive alive.
Earn your RoadSMARTS
Learn more about road safety by taking the #RoadSMARTS pledge. By taking the Road SMARTS Pledge, you Support Making All Road Travel Safe, which can help improve road safety for everyone. When road behaviours change, accidents are reduced. For more information and to take the pledge for free, visit https://www.ottawasafetycouncil.ca/road-smarts.