Nick Coates team will recognize officers who stop impaired drivers on N.L. roads
New MADD program modelled on similar one from British Columbia
A new program to recognize police officers who get impaired drivers off the roads in Newfoundland and Labrador is a way to thank police and honour victims, says the national president of MADD — who lost her own stepson in 2013.
The initiative, named the Nick Coates Team, will include Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and RCMP officers who get at least eight impaired drivers off the road between April 1, 2018, and March 31, 2019.
"We're hoping that our police officers will accept this as a thank you for all their hard work," MADD president Patricia Hynes-Coates told CBC Newfoundland Morning.
"It recognizes them, but it will also bring the awareness there yearly about how important it is not to drive when you're impaired by drugs or alcohol."
No one wants to bury a loved one because of something so senseless.- Patricia Hynes-Coates
The program is named for Hynes-Coates' stepson, Nick Coates, who died in a 2013 collision on Kenmount Road in St. John's.
The other driver involved in the accident was convicted of impaired driving causing death.
Modelled on B.C.'s Alexa Team
The Newfoundland and Labrador initiative is inspired by a similar one in British Columbia, called the Alexa Team.
Hynes-Coates said that program had received a lot of positive feedback from the community.
"This is what it's modelled after and it's absolutely amazing."
MADD worked with RCMP and the RNC in developing the program, she said, and the response from officers has been good so far.
"RCMP N.L. supports MADD and is pleased to see that the Team Nick Coates initiative will recognize the work of police officers in removing impaired drivers from our roads and highways," RCMP Cpl. Jolene Garland told CBC News.
"Our shared goal is to decrease the number of serious injuries and fatalities caused by impaired driving."
The Alexa's Team road safety program — named for Alexa Middelaer, a four-year-old from Delta, B.C., who was killed by a drunk driver in 2008 — has grown to include 2,400 RCMP and municipal police officers.
Over the life of that program, the number of impaired driving deaths have decreased.
Meanwhile, Hynes-Coates said this kind of program will leave a real mark in the memories of officers involved, and provides MADD and people affected by impaired driving a way to thank them for their work.
If you have to put a child into a grave, you will know what I'm talking about.- Patricia Hynes-Coates
"I've attended the Alexa awards," said Hynes-Coates, who became emotional discussing the ceremony.
"When you have a six-foot-eight man come and stand in front of you to accept a certificate and a handwritten note from the Middelaer family for what he has done, and he's crying, he is so humbled, because someone has thanked him for all the hard work he did, and he is so forever grateful that he's doing this to honour this beautiful little girl."
New focus on cannabis
In addition to the Nick Coates Team, MADD is also launching its latest Project Red Ribbon.
This year in particular, Coates-Hynes said it's important to remember that impaired driving includes not only alcohol, but also drugs, including cannabis, which was legalized across Canada in October.
"Cannabis or impaired driving due to drugs is not something new to our campaign. We've been doing this for many years," said Hynes-Coates.
"But we are focusing on it now more so because cannabis is legal. It allows us to have a better conversation, a more open conversation."
Both alcohol and cannabis are legal, Hynes-Coates said, and people who are of legal age can make their own decisions about use.
What MADD is asking, she said, is that if you do choose to use either substance, don't drive.
"Stay off our roadways, waterways, trailways. No one wants to bury a loved one because of something so senseless," she said.
"If you have to put a child into a grave, you will know what I'm talking about."
With files from The St. John's Morning Show