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You don’t want to be that next driver

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It’s that time of year when reporters often look back at the stories they wrote and wonder which ones had the most impact, both on readers and on themselves personally

For me this year, one story I have thought about a lot is a feature I wrote last summer on drunk driving.

Not just because the issue is an important one to me, but because it seems almost every day there is a story somewhere that reminds me Canadians are still not getting the message about driving drunk.

Thirty years ago Mothers Against Drunk Driving formed and since then has made sure we all know it’s just not okay to drink and drive. Yet we still do.

The number of people getting caught driving drunk each year still numbers in the 10s of thousands. More than 88,000 incidents were recorded in 2009. More than 1,200 people die from drunk and drug-impaired driving. Between 2006 and 2009 every single province recorded an increase in the number of drunk driving incidents. In Manitoba, the number of incidents jumped nearly 30 per cent.

We had a story in the paper today that the number of drunk drivers being nabbed in this month’s Check Stop program has almost doubled compared to last year.

There is just no excuse for this.

Police often have suggested the statistics show an increase in drunk driving incidents because the cops are getting better and more targeted at catching drunks behind the wheel. That may be the case.

But that doesn’t change the fact that people are still doing it.

Week after week we are forced to witness the death of yet another innocent driver. A young mother on her way to work. A new bride planning her honeymoon. A 16-year-old boy biking home from his job at the local grocery store. A grandmother on her way home from the theatre.

Few Canadians will be able to claim they haven’t been touched personally by drunk driving. Whether it’s their own family member or friend, or a friend of a friend, we all know someone whose life has been changed forever because someone else was too selfish and too stupid not to get behind the wheel after having something to drink.

Few Canadians will also not be able to tell you that drunk driving is bad and that they know it’s dangerous.

But it doesn’t seem to matter.

It’s holiday time and everyone deserves to let loose and have fun. But when you plan to go out and drink please please please, make a plan for how you’re going to get home.

If you’re leaving the bar or restaurant or holiday party and wondering if you’re okay to drive after just a couple of beers or you think the three glasses of wine have long passed through your system, please stop and think. Think about the groom 28-year-old Andrea Bannish left behind, who will not get to spend a first Christmas with his wife. If you’re out on New Year’s Eve, think about the fact that there will be no celebration for the parents of teenagers Amutha Subramaniam, Senhit Mehari and Stefan Potter. Their parents are about to face a new year without their precious children in it all because another teenager chose to drink and drive.

Think about what would happen if you are the next driver that ends up killing someone because you couldn’t be bothered to take a cab, hop on the bus or phone a friend. Do you want to spend the rest of your life wishing you had called that cab or do you want to just take the extra few minutes and spend the extra few dollars and do it.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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