Sometimes in life we are lucky to enjoy an excellent experience twice. Very rarely though, twice in one evening.
After a delightful Christmas Covelli pizza and chat with my son at Garage Pizza in St. Davids last Friday, I was returning to Old Town along Highway 55. It was peaceful, still and dark. Absolutely uneventful. Cold enough for early December.
I was admiring the festive and effulgent Christmas light displays in the Village to my left, when suddenly, as I crested the wee hill to take the dip prior to the Old Winery Restaurant, red and blue flashing lights appeared. Lots of reflective uniforms and pylons.
Uh-oh, the RIDE program. Nothing to worry about, though, as Diet Pepsi with a bit of ice had been my drink of choice earlier at Garage. I slowed to a halt, following the directions of the officer with the flashlight.
“Good evening sir. We are conducting a RIDE stop in an effort to make our roads safer this holiday season,” she said. “Have you had any alcohol or drugs this evening?” She aimed her flashlight beam into my eyes, as I responded in the negative.
She seemed to believe me and then her wingman arrived at my window and asked me if I had been fastening my seat belt as I approached their checkpoint. “No, I always wear my seatbelt. And, when I play old men’s hockey, I always wear a full visor.”
I’ll bet he was just cleverly checking my eyes and visual sobriety. He chuckled and they waved me through. It was so nice to see a job done professionally and with courtesy.
The RIDE program started in 1977, as Reduce Impaired Driving in Etobicoke. It saved lives and has been expanded across Canada. Eight years later it withstood a challenge as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Now the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere program is used during the festive season, and occasionally throughout the year. RIDE has greatly reduced the carnage caused by drunk and impaired drivers.
Thank goodness! Before RIDE made us smarter and more responsible, there were so many tragic Christmas seasons. Our roads were a bloodbath in December, and after 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, a shocking number of drivers were impaired. Some had to put a hand over one eye to avoid double vision.
I am not preaching. Holier than thou I was not. I was one of the offenders. Certainly nothing to be proud of, but that’s just the way it was. How quickly things have changed, eh?
As I relaxed later at home, I reflected on my RIDE experience. I put my warm jacket back on, got back in my car, and drove about 10 minutes around through Garrison Village. Back on Highway 55 again, I slowed to a stop at the same RIDE checkpoint.
The officers were surprised and a bit confused to see me.
“Good evening,” I said. “I was here about an hour ago. I have always admired people doing their jobs professionally, for the right reasons. So here I am again. I remember back 40 years ago, when the RIDE program was new. The chief of police was asked if the program was not working, because each year they were making fewer DWI arrests, and suspending fewer driver's licences.”
The chief had firmly replied, “Not at all. RIDE has been a big success so far. The year when we make zero arrests and suspend zero licences and impound zero vehicles, we will declare victory over impaired drivers.”
As I left after this brief but heartfelt conversation, the constable with the flashlight said, “Thanks a lot for coming back. What a great story. We really appreciate some positive feedback. They will love it back at the station.”
I drove home, feeling a bit better after doing a good thing on a December evening in NOTL.