TIMMINS -- Recent incidents of drunk driving are leaving the Timmins Police Service concerned for public safety and some people's willingness to put lives at risk.

A Sunday afternoon incident saw a 40-year-old woman wreck her SUV along a residential road, causing the vehicle to flip onto a front yard of a home. The woman also attempted to flee the scene through a neighbouring backyard — though police were able to track her footsteps in the snow and make an arrest.

"This speaks to fairly careless behaviour or a fairly casual point of view on the part of some drivers," said the police service's communications coordinator, Marc Depatie. "There's got to be some (consideration) with local drivers to make plans so that they don't put themselves behind the wheel if they've been drinking."

A disturbing trend

Police made five impaired driving arrests over the past three weeks, with over 1,800 Festive RIDE stops conducted since the service's 2020 campaign launched on Dec. 2.

Depatie said it signals an upsetting direction for the prevalence of impaired driving this holiday season.

"Should this trend continue, we will certainly outdo what we did in 2018 and 2019," Depatie said, with 2020's numbers appearing to exceed last year's 34 total impaired driving charges — including both alcohol and drugs.

A particularly shocking drunk driving arrest for the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter was on Dec. 5, where the driver had five children under the age of 10 in the vehicle.

MADD Timmins & Area President Amy St. Amour said learning of that incident left her lost for words, but thankful no one was injured.

"To know that an adult chose to drive impaired and put those children's lives at risk ... this is the reason why we do what we do," St. Amour said. "To prevent these things from happening, to educate people and to make sure that, at the end of the day, the justice system is doing what it's there to do and punish people for these decisions."

A community effort

Depatie said while police are on high alert and ready to lay strict charges, getting the message across to stubborn drivers has proven to be a frustrating effort.

"We are confounded. We don't know what more we can say or what more we can do," Depatie said.

"Our officers are very focused on locating impaired drivers. We're making that as clear as possible with the public and still, there seems to be a persistent number of persons who choose to ignore that message."

But Depatie said police are thankful for the public's help in reporting impaired drivers, with at least two of the service's last five charges prompted by civilian complaints.

Taking lives into your own hands

St. Amour said the most MADD can do is continue to inform people of the dangers associated with impaired driving — and push for even stricter charges to further deter people from making that choice.

"The irresponsibility of that decision, in the criminality of that decision, I would hope would weigh heavily on them," St. Amour said. "You're really taking everybody's lives into your own hands when you choose to drive impaired."

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