Residents rally behind designated driver
People in western Labrador are defending a man who took on the role of designated driver last weekend, but ended up getting a reprimand from a town official.
Nick Blake posted on his Facebook page that he would be a designated driver for anyone who contacted him.
But after doing the good deed, he got a call from a town official who said what he did was illegal and it would be reported to his insurance company.
People in Labrador City have since rallied behind Blake, saying the town got it wrong.
Lindsay Mitchelmore's brother Shane Mercer was killed by a drunk driver in December 2010. Mercer's fiancé Leisa Penney was seriously injured in the same incident.
"I think the death of Shane and injuries inccurred by Leisa Penney hit home with everybody," Mitchelmore said. "I just hope people do the right thing and know that drinking and driving changes lives forever."
Mitchelmore said she doesn't understand why the town would have such a problem with someone offering to drive people home, because it isn't out of the ordinary.
"It's no different than Christmas parties when companies pay people to be a safe driver and people give a tip. That's how I feel about it," she said.
"I understand that there may be some companies in the community that are concerned about people impeding on their business, and I completely understand that. However, I don't feel that that's what Mr. Blake's motivation was and I just hope it doesn't deter people from doing this because I think it's something we really need in this community."
Mitchelmore said she's seen other posts on Facebook, offering to safely drive friends home from a bar or house parties on a regular basis.
She supports what Blake did, and hopes people take the lead from him in future, despite the negative reaction from the town.
"I don't know Mr. Blake myself or his motivation for why he decided to do what he did last weekend. However, I felt he was genuine and sincere in what he was doing — providing safe rides home for people. I don't think he was doing it for profit," she said.
Hitting rock bottom
Blake said his actions stemmed from his own mistakes when it comes to drinking and driving.
"It's not something I'm going to hide, but three or four years ago I was charged with a DUI. It ... was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me," he said.
"And when I hit rock bottom I realized I could stay at rock bottom and either hate myself for life, or I could pick myself up and strive and do better for the community and teach others from the mistakes I've made."
Blake said about 40 people called him for transportation. He didn't charge for rides, but people left him tips totalling around $200.
The town met with Blake on Friday, and said it supports designated drivers, but has to ensure regulations and by-laws are being followed.
Blake said they also apologized for the way the first call was handled.
Community at odds with town
The town said Blake, or any other voluntary designated driver, cannot accept money, even if it's a tip or donation.
However, at least one of Blake's passengers doesn't see what the problem is.
Neil Wall said he thinks the town might be taking the situation a little too seriously.
"I see the town is doing their job in regards to looking into the matter. But at the same time they're going way too far with it," Wall said.
He believes the high number of drunk drivers in Labrador City would likely decrease if people acted more like Blake.
"It's a very big value for everybody. If everybody was to step up like Nick has, the numbers would show and there wouldn't be as many DUIs in this town."
Wall said impaired drivers are too common in the community.
"I think it's growing worse because people … they think it's OK to drive after waiting an hour and a half for a cab," he said.