OTTAWA -- As Ottawa’s MADD Red Ribbon Campaign kicked off in the capital Tuesday, police say impaired driving is still a major safety concern.

The Project Red Ribbon campaign will until Jan. 3 and promotes sober driving throughout the holiday season. People are encouraged to tie red ribbons and place red ribbon decals on their cars.

At a ceremony marking the beginning of the campaign, police chief Peter Sloly said, “The issue of impaired driving, whether by drugs or any other factor, is a safety concern for every single Canadian citizen in every single Canadian community. We have frontline officers doing their best to stem the tide of those type of tragic incidents, but we need partners like MADD to educate people help them to make more informed and better choices to quite simply not get behind the wheel of a car or any other conveyance when they are impaired in anyway.”

According to police, in 2020, 685 drivers in Ottawa were given impaired related charges.

Of those, 173 were involved in a collision, 190 were taken off the road following a traffic stop by an officer, 288 were detected after someone in the community called 911, and 12 were caught in a RIDE program.

Sloly says, “There are lots of options, there is lots of education, there is no need to have collisions and fatal collisions, tragedies when we have people impaired by any form behind the wheel of a car.”

But police say this year they are concerned about the number of younger impaired drivers.

Const. Amy Gagnon is with the Ottawa Police Service. She says, “Since the reopening, so we are talking end of June, we have noticed a great increase in impaired driving. Impaired driving that affects (everyone)—whether you are in your 50s, 40s, 30s. We are seeing a trend of those in their 20s are getting behind the wheel impaired.”

Const. Gagnon says, “Any substance you take that alters your mood, means you are high or drunk and should not be driving.”

Geoff Leckey lost his daughter Emma in 2018 after she was hit by a drunk driver while studying in Toronto. He says, “She was a brilliant and beautiful young woman, within weeks of graduating from university. She loved live and had everything going for him.”

Leckey says it is up to everyone to keep roads safe. “This was a thoughtless a decision, made in an instant and permanently changed so many lives and left those who loved Emma serving a life sentence with no parole.”

Red ribbons and car decals are available from MADD Ottawa at madd.ottawa@outlook.com.