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Police services launch annual Festive RIDE program

Thunder Bay Police, OPP and Anishinabek Police Service will be out in force this holiday season looking for impaired drivers.

THUNDER BAY — Driving under the influence is dangerous and potentially deadly.

Get caught and convicted and it’s also costly and could include a night or two behind bars — more if someone is hurt or killed as a result.

It’s why three police services from around the Thunder Bay regional have joined forces for the 2022 Festive RIDE campaign, that will feature officers setting up in random spots, at random times, to check in with motorists and ensure they’re not driving impaired by drink or drug.

According to the Thunder Bay Police Service, impaired charges dropped from 299 in 2020 to 252 in 2021, and 173 charges have been laid in 2022, before the holiday season has begun. That’s 48 fewer than prior to last year’s Festive Ride launch. Sixty-seven more have been charged for driving under the influence of drugs. 

This counters what the Ontario Provincial Police have seen, where there’s been a slight increase this year in Thunder Bay and a whopping increase throughout the Northwest Region, where it’s grown from 577 charges laid last year to 815 so far this year, a 41.2 per cent increase.

“We’re hoping that with an increased presence across the region, we can limit those numbers and bring them down,” said OPP Const. Marc Nielsen.

Traffic Sgt. Sal Carchidi of the Thunder Bay Police Service said officers will be out on the streets throughout the month of December — though reminded drivers police are also out there all year long.

“You’re just going to see an elevated presence in December, especially around the holidays. Impaired driving collisions, impaired arrests, nobody wants that for their families. It’s a life-changing event to get arrested for impaired driving,” Carchidi said, as officers from TBPS, OPP and Anishinabek Police Service stopped drivers along Balmoral Avenue to kick off the Festive Ride campaign.

“Your vehicle is impounded for seven days, your licence is suspended for 90 days and you don’t want that to happen. We don’t want to see any injuries on our local roadways.”

The best advice Carchidi has for the public is to plan ahead.

Don’t go to the bar with no way home and share the designated driving duties to ensure no one is tempted to grab their keys and put them in the ignition.

While he is concerned that a program like Operation Red Nose, which used volunteers to drive people’s vehicles home in return for a donation to St. John Ambulance, is not being held this year, he said there are plenty of other choices out there.

“It concerning in the sense that it’s one less option for people to utilize, but as long as people continue to plan ahead, they still have a variety of options. There’s still public transit, there’s still the Uride or the ride-sharing apps, and there’s still the designated driver program,” Carchidi said.

“That’s the fallback. That’s all we had through the year. Plan a designated driver. It’s that one day that you’re not consuming alcohol. Have pop, have water. There are other alternatives to have that one person as your designated driver.”

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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