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11.22.2017 | Road Safety

RIDE Programs: Reducing Impaired Driving

When drivers get behind the wheel, they need to be focused and alert in order to reach their destination safely – and to do so without endangering others.

Sharing the road with dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of other people during a trip presents the possibility for dangers. No matter how safe and responsible you are, certain factors can raise the risk of accidents. One of these factors is impaired drivers.

Those who choose to get behind the wheel while intoxicated put themselves and everyone else on the road at risk.

RIDE programs were developed to help minimize the chances of these tragedies occurring.

The sobriety-testing program is usually put into effect in high-risk areas or at high-risk times like the holidays to detect if motorists are under the influence while behind the wheel. These programs aim to reduce accident rates by taking drunk drivers off the road.

What is RIDE? Why Was It Developed?

Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, or RIDE, is a sobriety-testing initiative. Used by police in Ontario, the program was developed in 1977. Originally named Reduce Impaired Driving in Etobicoke during its 1977 inception, the program was given a more universally applicable title once it caught on.

The program involves conducting roadside checks to determine whether drivers are under the influence. Designed in response to a number of drunk-driving based accidents and fatalities, the program serves as both a preventive measure and a deterrent.

Since people are more likely to chance driving after a couple drinks during times of celebration, RIDE is prominent during the holiday season. Big-traffic events like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or even the night after major sporting events can make for some dangerous road conditions. RIDE programs are prominent during these times, though they are used year-round in some cases.

How Does the Program Work?

The program uses a combination of participation from local law enforcement and voluntary assistance from nearby areas, as well as breathalyzer units to detect the presence of alcohol in a person’s system. Officers who oversee the program’s use are usually the ones from the jurisdiction where it takes place.

Participating officers from other nearby jurisdictions are usually part of auxiliary units, which are primarily dedicated to detecting traffic-based offenses such as those involving drunk driving. The officers conduct their checks on the road using breathalyzers.

This highly-advanced technology can detect the presence of alcohol in a person’s system, even if it is only present in very small amounts. Even a driver who is barely buzzed can end up having their skills on the road impaired, meaning it is important for officers to detect this before an accident occurs.

Controversy Regarding the Use of RIDE

RIDE has been challenged as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many believe the program serves as a means to erode privacy, especially since it can require the participation of drivers who are not impaired.

An exemption was made, as officials ruled the Charter could be violated in this case but only for instances regarding the RIDE program. Officials have cited the program’s potential to create safer travel as a reason for allowing the change.

RIDE programs have spawned many similar incarnations around the world, which function similarly. Each type of program sees areas of roadways being sectioned off by police cruisers and pylons, often requiring drivers to stop completely, get out, and take a test before proceeding.

Many of these programs are announced far ahead of time, as a means of alerting drivers who may be coming through the area.

While some claim this could defeat the purpose of the program by simply encouraging drunk motorists to take another route, sometimes just knowing law enforcement will be out in a local area is enough to deter drunk driving altogether.

The Effect on Safety and Insurance

The prospect of sharing the road with an inebriated driver is scary for anyone, and this has created a strong support system for RIDE and its variations.

Not only does the possibility of drunk drivers create a tense situation for everyone, it changes the game regarding insurance.

Good insurance is vital for helping motorists avoid costly liabilities on the road. Crashes where impaired drivers are part of the equation raise many questions about applicable coverage and protection.

Insurance providers understand these dangers, and many worked to offer this type of protection in their plans.

While RIDE programs are designed to influence the behavior of people, they’ve also had a big impact on technology. As people turn to scientific solutions for reducing impaired driving, elements of RIDE can be seen.

Continuing to Combat Impaired Driving

Many automotive manufacturers, legal departments, and safety advocates have turned to technology as a means of tackling the drunk-driving problem. Some of these solutions use similar equipment as those in the RIDE program.

Some vehicles have breathalyzers installed in them. Like the ones used in roadside checks, these devices require the driver to blow into a tube that then activates a device to check their blood-alcohol content. These units can be installed on ignitions, ensuring those who have had a history of impaired driving are sober before they start the car.

RIDE programs have been a big factor in the history of improving transportation safety. Despite their mixed reputation, their use of technology and foresight to tackle impaired driving has seen proven results.


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