Oakville, Ontario – While a recent survey shows more than three-quarters of Canadians favour the addition of testing technology in vehicles to prevent impaired driving, MADD Canada and its new National President are striving for 100% support.
In a survey of 1,001 Canadians, conducted by Ipsos in late January, 785 (78%) said they would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ willing to have technology integrated into vehicles, at no cost to them, to prevent the engine from starting if the driver is impaired.
“The hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries caused by alcohol and/or drug-related crashes each year are 100% preventable. We would like to see 100% support for the technology that can stop these terrible tragedies,” said MADD Canada’s new National President Jaymie-Lyne Hancock.
Andrew Murie, MADD Canada’s Chief Executive Officer, notes that Canada has not seen a large sustained reduction in impairment-related crash deaths in more than a decade. “This technology will end impaired driving. The current level of support is high, but as this technology comes available over the next few years, we would like it to have the backing of all Canadians.”
The development of in-vehicle technologies to detect alcohol has been underway for several years. The various systems being explored include: breath-based testing to measure a driver’s exhaled breath for ethanol alcohol levels; and touch-based measurement of ethanol levels in skin tissue using infrared light. In both systems, if the tests detect a pre-determined level of alcohol in the driver, the car will not start. There is also development happening with computer vision algorithms that track the visual attributes of the driver to detect drowsiness that may also be adaptable for signs of impairment.
Similar technology to detect cannabis is also on the horizon. Roadside oral fluid screening tests for cannabis are already in use by police, and numerous entrepreneurs and researchers are looking at additional technologies, including some of the breath and vision-based detection measures, that could be adapted for in-vehicle use.
“These technologies will be invisible to drivers,” Mr. Murie said. “Accuracy is key of course, but these systems also need to be completely seamless. They have to be unobtrusive and fast. Sober drivers must be able to get in and start their car with no delay.”
Gathering support for in-vehicle technology that can end impaired driving is an important goal for Ms. Hancock, who started her two-year term as National President in January.
“If some people can’t make the responsible choice to not drive when they are impaired, their car will make it for them,” Ms. Hancock said. “I want to see a day when impairment-related crashes, like the one that killed my brother DJ, are eliminated.”
On August 21, 2014, DJ was hit head-on by an impaired driver after leaving a local arena where he had tried out for a Junior A Team hockey team. His and Jaymie’s parents, Dean and Kim, had been at the tryout and were on the road just a few minutes behind DJ. They came upon the crash scene and found their son pinned inside his car. He died an hour later, still inside his car. Jaymie was at home when the first call came. She vividly remembers the frantic follow-up calls, the uncertainty about whether she should be going to the crash site or the hospital, and the dread about what news the next call might, and did in fact, bring.
Since then, Ms. Hancock, a Registered Nurse who works in obstetrics in her hometown of Sudbury, Ontario, has become a strong advocate in the anti-impaired driving movement, speaking at conferences, safe grad events and schools to talk about the importance of impaired driving prevention. She and her parents have shared their story as part of MADD Canada’s School Assembly Program for students, and as part of the Project Red Ribbon holiday awareness campaign.
Another key area of focus for Ms. Hancock throughout her term will be to bring the sober driving message to more Canadians, and particularly youth, via social media.
“I look forward to opening up the conversation about impaired driving, and engaging new supporters, new groups, new communities online to join us in fighting this entirely preventable crime,” Ms. Hancock said.
“MADD Canada’s National President plays a tremendous role in advancing awareness and policy initiatives, promoting education, representing volunteers and members, and, most importantly, being a leading voice for victims of impaired driving across Canada,” Mr. Murie said. “Jaymie’s drive, her youth and her passion for this cause will help us bring even more people to the team that is working to end impaired driving.”
For more information or to arrange an interview:
Jaymie-Lyne Hancock, MADD Canada National President, 705-623-3148 or email@example.com
Andrew Murie, MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer, 416-720-7642 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Deb Kelly, MADD Canada Communications Manager, 1-800-665-6233, ext 240 or email@example.com.