A new multi-platform ad campaign, one in which the provincial government calls emotionally charged, is aiming to drive down the number of drinking and driving crashes in Saskatchewan.
"It's got quite an impact when you think of the person beside you one second and gone the next," commented Don McMorris, minister responsible for SGI, after seeing and hearing the ads.
A television commercial shows family and friends partaking in various activities before someone in the picture vanishes. The implication being their lives were taken because of an impaired driver.
Weyburn police Chief and president of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police Marlo Pritchard explained how he felt the first time he saw the ad.
"You feel the pain. I've sat in those households where you have notified a family that a family member has been deceased because of an accident," he said.
The campaign will run across TV, radio, movie theatres and online from May 15 to June 13.
In 2014, 61 people were killed and 541 were injured in crashes related to drugs or alcohol in Saskatchewan, statistically making it among the highest in Canada. In all, there were more than 1,100 crashes where these factors were in play.
Pritchard said the problem isn't getting better. Weyburn police have seen a 12 per cent increase in impaired driving this year, a trend he said is consistent for most of the province. The good news is fatalities are down to date he added.
Since police can't be everywhere, the chief said the onus is on the public to change its behaviour.
"It's not police stopping it, it has to be the driver themselves. They have to take responsibility as do their family and friends."
McMorris said in addition to this campaign, they've also worked to toughen up penalties. Two years ago, changes in traffic law took effect. Those included longer licence suspensions, immediate roadside vehicle seizures and mandatory ignition interlock for those convicted of impaired driving.
The province is also bracing for when new law is introduced next spring around the legalization of recreational marijuana use.
"This is a new, possibly another issue that may impair driving as we move forward. There's a lot of work that needs to be done between now and the legalization that we need to do," said McMorris.
He believes it will have some sort of impact, the extent of which isn't known at this time and won't be known until the new law takes effect.
Pritchard agreed it is something they're watching closely.
"We know that's going to change the playing field, I guess we'll put it that way, and it is a concern from the chiefs of police, from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and we are working toward trying to get ahead of that."
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