Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 17, 2024
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A Time for Taxis


’Tis the season for festive cheer — for parties, hearty feasts with friends and family, and soon, New Year’s celebrations.

If the statistics are any indication, a good number of inebriated motorists are going to be pulled over and charged with Driving Under the Influence over the next few weeks. A very good number get pulled over already, even without all of these excuses.

Across the East Region, which stretches from Ottawa to Cobourg, impaired driving is up 20 per cent this year on the five-year average. 42 people have died in impairment-related crashes across Ontario.

Miraculously, no one has yet died as a result of drunk driving in Prince Edward County in 2023.

But that hasn’t been for lack of trying. Local police have already laid 82 impaired driving offences this year.

That’s up 9 from 2022 with the month of revelry still to go. And that figure from 2022, 73, was not just a five-year high, it was almost double our five-year average. It’s already eclipsed with 30 days still to go.

In a tourism mecca like Prince Edward County, one might like to think that figure is driven by visitors. A bunch of interlopers unaware of their surroundings, drinking too much at a local winery and getting behind the wheel. It’s an idea passed around when the rate of local DUIs gets discussed.

But the Prince Edward OPP’s statistics from 2022 indicate that three out of every four drivers charged with drunk driving call Prince Edward County and the Quinte region home.

Acting Sergeant Aaron Miller is a County native who came home to the Prince Edward detachment after a few years afield. His transition into a Community Services Officer role has been so seamless, he has been promoted to temporary Regional Media Coordinator in Smiths Falls .

He knows DUI stats backwards and forwards both for the region and the municipality.

The concern for Prince Edward County motorists shows on his face when I raise the issue of local DUIs. He’s clear when he says someone getting behind the wheel after a few too many has made a choice. A dangerous and selfish one.

“It’s very concerning,” said Mr. Miller recently. “It’s a decision. If you are going to a Christmas party and you are thinking about a gift, what you should be asking is ‘How am I getting home? Is there a designated driver? Is there a place to stay over night? Are we calling a taxi or ride share?’” Hopefully both those options will still be on the table next year.

Planning ahead is likely what a lot of conscientious revellers around the County do. It’s the ones who don’t plan ahead that are being directed to pull over for roadside screening with an approved drug or alcohol detection device. And there sure are a lot in the second column.

Remember those holiday-themed RIDE ads that used to appear with great frequency in the County’s newspapers with that simple question across the top? “Which Ride Are You Taking Home Tonight?” Underneath there was a picture of a local taxi, an OPP cruiser, an ambulance and a hearse.

But what if the taxi never comes? What if the dispatcher says sorry, but pre-orders have us booked up all evening? A lack of critical mass of taxi and ride sharing would never, under any circumstances, excuse drunk driving. Full Stop.

But if the first option in that old advertisement that aimed to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere isn’t available, that is a matter of communal concern. That’s why we are hopeful Council will reconsider the taxi bylaw and Uride wage subsidy motion next week and amend it into something that will keep options available for all those party goers who forget to book ahead.

With its phone app, Uride can connect with any customer anywhere in the County. On the taxi side, local cab companies need support in the wake of insurance hikes and $1.50 per litre fuel costs. Cab fares can be hiked only so high and so many times before the entire operation is too prohibitive for both user and operator alike.

It’s worth noting the funds supporting a wage subsidy for Uride and a Micro-Grant for local transportation solutions ($60,000 total) would come through the County’s half of the Municipal Accommodation Tax fund and not the general tax levy. Those are funds that come straight from tourist dollars. Money well spent for everyone, both those near and those from away.

Mr. Miller wasn’t about to wade into the details of a municipal commitment to ride sharing and the intricacies of the County’s taxi bylaw—but did note that options for getting home are an important part of roadway safety.

The more, the better.

“Community safety really is a team effort and everyone has a role to play,” he said.

Mr. Miller’s boss echoes the sentiment that members of the local constabulary know the score. They will be extra vigilant in their efforts to find and arrest motorists driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol on local roadways this season.

“Impaired driving statistics are of concern for Prince Edward County,” Staff Sargeant John Hatch told the Gazette. “The OPP and our first responder partners have witnessed the trauma associated with collisions as a result of impaired driving. Prince Edward OPP remains fully committed to combating impaired driving. With the festive season upon us, drivers can expect to see RIDE programs, inclusive of mandatory alcohol screening around the County. Please plan a safe ride home.”

Let’s try to kill the statistics, not ourselves.

This text is from the Volume 193 No. 50 edition of The Picton Gazette
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