Launched three years ago, the campaign uses signs, billboards, public service announcements, postcards, bookmarks and other material to try to convince the driving public that it is appropriate to call the emergency number if you suspect someone is driving impaired.
According to MADD's press release:
"When MADD Canada started this program in 2007, there was a widespread public misperception that impaired driving was not an appropriate reason to call 911, that it was not a true emergency ... we are pleased to say that programs such as Campaign 911 are changing that. We are seeing more and more reports of impaired drivers being taken off the roads because concerned citizens called 911."
The following are the warning signs that good citizens are supposed to watch out for:
1. Driving unreasonably fast, slow or at an inconsistent speed
2. Drifting in and out of lanes
3. Tailgating and changing lanes frequently
4. Making exceptionally wide turns
5. Changing lanes or passing without sufficient clearance
6. Overshooting or stopping well before stop signs or stop lights
7. Disregarding signals and lights
8. Approaching signals or leaving intersections too quickly or slowly
9. Driving without headlights, failing to lower high beams or leaving turn signals on
10.Driving with windows open in cold or inclement weather
This gives me some concern. On one hand, I would and have called 911 in cases where I suspected another driver on the road was driving with extreme recklessness — drunk or otherwise. I hate impaired driving with a passion, and have dedicated myself to combating the issue both personally and professionally. (Once, after a call, the OPP had my pregnant wife and me tail a car all the way from Carleton Place to Ottawa!)
On the other hand, there are already a lot of people out there who abuse the 911 emergency service, and others who are self-styled "hall monitors" of the roads. I hate it when people tailgate, speed excessively, cut off other cars, fail to lower highbeams, etc. But only a few of them I suspect of impairment. Most are just asses.
And then there's "driving with windows open in cold or inclement weather". Have you ever driven with a smoker? This is standard operating procedure.
That said, there have been significant cases of 911 callers stopping drunk drivers — even on a bus!
And the campaign is working. In Calgary, where it was launched 5 months ago, the number of calls has jumped 60 percent — resulting in a seventeen per cent increase in impaired driving charges.
There was no information given on the increased cost to 911 resources, or the number of mistaken or spiteful calls. But it seems that police forces and municipalities are embracing the new culture of non-violent citizen vigilantism.
Hopefully, common sense will prevail. And they'll at least pull over to use their phones, lest they add to the dangerous driving statistics.