AMHERST - Susan MacAskill remembers the day she got the call that still haunts here to this day.
Her father was returning from River Philip to his home in Hants County in August 1993 when his vehicle was struck head-on by an impaired driver near Masstown. He died 10 days later from his injures and MacAskill knew she had to do something to raise awareness about the real cost of drinking and driving.
"When my dad was killed because of someone else's irresponsible choices I knew I needed to try to do something to make a difference," said MacAskill, who works with MADD Canada's Atlantic office. "My father was a man of integrity, a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather and a good friend."
MacAskill said her father always taught her to make the most of her opportunities and she's looking forward to the day when they meet again so she can tell him she did everything she could to stop impaired driving.
MacAskill spoke Wednesday as MADD Canada's Bordertown Chapter kicked off Project Red Ribbon in Cumberland County in conjunction with police in Amherst and Springhill, the RCMP, Wal-Mart and M&J Taxi.
"It's important that we get the message out there that even though it's the holidays you shouldn't get behind the wheel after a night of innocent fun involving alcohol or drugs," chapter president and ARHS student Nikita Holland said. "You can have a couple of drinks, but don't get behind the wheel of a vehicle or don't get into a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking."
Red ribbon boxes will be located at businesses throughout Cumberland County. Motorists can display the red ribbon as a sign of support for safe and sober driving during the holiday season and all year.
"The ribbons also serve as a memorial tribute to those who have been innocently injured or killed due to the actions of an impaired driver," MacAskill said.
Impaired driving is a complex problem and MADD Canada has taken a comprehensive approach to the issue of drinking and driving by working with communities to raise awareness, by assisting victims and their families and by taking an advocacy role in lobbying governments for stricter legislation such as lowering the blood alcohol level.
Despite the strides taken in recent years, impaired driving still remains the top criminal cause of death in Canada - three times higher than homicide.
"The reality is these senseless and needless deaths and injuries are 100 per cent preventable," MacAskill said.
She urged residents to not only tie a ribbon to their vehicle, but urged them to be extra vigilant by calling 911 when they see a suspected impaired driver.