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National Impaired Driving Prevention Week reminds Calgarians to make responsible choices

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Family members and close friends of a young Calgary couple killed in a car crash last summer are reminding others to plan ahead and make responsible choices on this National Impaired Driving Prevention Week.

Macy Boyce, 20, and Ethan Halford, 21, died last year in a collision on Highway 21, just north of Trochu, Alta., on June 17.

RCMP say they were travelling north in their vehicle when it was rear-ended, causing it to cross over the centre line where it was hit by an oncoming semi-truck.

Boyce and Halford were pronounced dead at the scene.

One man has since been charged with impaired driving causing death in connection with the incident.

Macy Boyce's mother, Corey Macpherson, says, "This can happen to anybody."

"I just want people to know that this can happen to anybody," said Boyce's mother, Corey Macpherson.

"It's been nine months now and this feeling seems to be getting worse the longer I go without talking to my daughter, without hugging her or smelling her hair. Our family is still in shreds and this is all because somebody made a choice that was completely preventable."

This third week of March marks National Impaired Driving Prevention Week, a Government of Canada initiative to educate Canadians about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Macy Boyce's mother, Corey Macpherson, says, "Our family is still in shreds and this is all because somebody made a choice that was completely preventable."

This week is a particularly heavy one for people like Lilian Munoz, who still remembers the day she received a text informing her she'd lost two of her closest friends.

"I just kept telling myself this can't be true. I turned 21 and Macy wasn't there, I finished university and she wasn't there, it was her birthday and it was just a bunch of big moments she missed," Munoz said.

"This could have been prevented, so please, I guarantee if you call your neighbour, your friend, anybody that you need a safe ride home, they will come get you. It's so easy to stop this from happening."

The Boyce and Halford families have since launched a campaign called the ME Project – the M for Macy and the E for Ethan to keep their memories alive and prevent impaired driving.

Lilian Munoz still remembers the day she received a text informing her she'd lost two of her closest friends.

MADD CANADA ENCOURAGES REPORTING OF IMPAIRED DRIVERS

Steve Sullivan, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the conversation around impaired driving is not just important on this week of awareness, but that it must be kept top of mind year-round.

"People should have a good time. We've been in lockdown for a few years and it's always important to spend that time with friends or family, but we just want to remind people as they do those things to do so safely themselves and for others," he said.

Sullivan emphasized the importance of not just planning ahead for a safe ride home through a designated driver, transit or ride-share program, but also to report an impaired driver if you see one.

"If you see someone on the road who you think is impaired, call 911. That's a potential crime in progress. You might be saving a life. If the officer pulls the person over and if they're not impaired, no harm done, but it's really important that we all be part of the solution."

This year's theme of National Impaired Driving Prevention Week also revolves around technology and introducing new legislation.

Sullivan says the United States and the United Kingdom are currently studying different types of technologies in which cars can use cameras to monitor a driver's eyes for impairment and sensors that can monitor erratic driving.

MADD Canada has also advocated for harsher sentences for convicted impaired drivers, including the suggestion of a three-to-four-year sentence for the guilty plea of a first-time offender and a four-to-five-year sentence for a non-guilty plea.

Repeat offenders with one prior Criminal Code offence for impaired driving within the past 10 years are suggested to get eight to 10 years in prison for a conviction if they pleaded not-guilty and six to eight years with an original guilty plea.

MADD says the sentences should continue to increase for repeat impaired drivers with even more prior Criminal Code violations.

For mothers like MacPherson, however, those penalties still don’t seem harsh enough and she hopes the organization will advocate even harder.

"There's so many things that are out of our control, that cause people sadness, that cost them grief and loss, that destroy families," she said.

"So many things that are out of our control. Impaired driving, whether it's by drugs or alcohol, impaired driving is completely within our control. There's absolutely no reason that anybody should be injured or killed by this cause. There's just no reason."

POLICE INCREASING IMPAIRED DRIVING ENFORCEMENT

The Calgary Police Service has issued 375 Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) since the beginning of 2023.

An IRS applies to occurrences when law enforcement has reasonable grounds to believe a person is operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.079.

Alberta's new impaired driving legislation implemented in late 2020 has implemented new immediate roadside penalties to take impaired drivers out of the court system and free up police resources.

A first-time offender for impaired driving must now pay a $2,000 fine and have their vehicle seized for up to 30 days and their licence suspended for 90 days.

After the 90 days, the driver can apply to take part in an Interlock program for one year.

Repeat offenders are subject to harsher suspensions and mandatory education programs.

Const. Dan Kurz with the CPS alcohol and drug recognition unit says new legislation has allowed for a more streamlined process not only for offenders, but for officers.

"So, what we've seen is the level of enforcement actually go up a little bit and the reason why is the new legislation has allowed for a more streamlined process not only for the offender, but for our officers who are working on the roadside," said Const. Dan Kurz with the CPS alcohol and drug recognition unit.

"Everything is done through an online portal, so they're not getting bogged down in disclosure and police reports, so our members are actually out there doing more of those."

Kurz adds that the number of criminal charges has dropped because officers now have the ability to use this new program and not put people into the criminal justice system.

"So, we have seen a drop in those criminal charges, but we have seen an actual increase in the overall enforcement citywide."

Calgary police say regular check stops will be out in full force this spring and summer as more Calgarians are expected to gather at social events. 

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