Blue Line

News
Driving home the message


December 3, 2013
By Tom Rataj

While on vacation two-years ago, Toronto Police Service (TPS) 32 Division Superintendent Selwyn “Sam” Fernandes happened upon an interesting anti-drinking and driving promotional vehicle in Georgia operated by the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department (SCMPD).

He found the late model Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor along with several vintage police vehicles parked outside the department’s historic “Barracks” building, which dates from 1870 and is the oldest continually active police headquarters building in the US.

What made this vehicle very unique was that the entire front half appears to be a standard SCMPD patrol car; white base paint colour, a navy blue and gold striping and lettering package and a large gold police shield. A standard police roof-light bar is positioned in the centre of the roof above the B-pillar.

The entire back half of the car, however, appears to be a standard Yellow Cab; taxi-yellow base paint colour with black graphics and lettering. A standard TAXI sign is located in the centre of the back half of the roof.

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In addition to the standard lettering at both ends, the front fenders read: “This ride = $18,000+,” while the back fenders read: “This ride about $20.”

The otherwise blank hood is adorned with text outlining the costs associated with being arrested, charged and convicted of Driving under the Influence (DUI).

{Borrowed inspiration}

Fernandes was so impressed with the concept that he knew he had to “borrow” it for use in Toronto, so in early 2013 he put his plan into motion. Sgt. Doodnath Churkoo was assigned the lead role of creating the TPS version of the “Choose your Ride” car. Taking into account the usual budgetary restraints, the project included looking for help from community partners.

Beck Taxi, one of Toronto’s largest cab companies, signed on by donating a retired 2008 Chevrolet Malibu with a failed drivetrain. The company’s cabs are all painted in bright orange base colour with a green hood, roof and trunk. An orange and white BECK sign adorns the roof, with vehicle graphics and lettering in green and black.

Over the course of the summer, several students employed in the TPS Youth In Policing Initiative (YIPI) program at 32 Division cleaned-up and prepared the front half of the car for painting in the standard TPS white base colour. They did all the sanding, taping and other preparatory work required before painting could be done.

Abram’s Towing, a large Toronto based company and a TPS contracted towing operator, then had the front half of the car professionally painted.

The final step was undertaken by the skilled new-vehicle preparation team located at the TPS body shop.

They started by applying all the standard uniform patrol car decaling to the front half of the vehicle, including the standard “To Serve & Protect” logo and reversed POLICE across the front edge of the hood.

They then added “THIS RIDE = $15,000+” to each front fender and “THIS RIDE = Approx. $40.00” to each rear fender, as well as “CHOOSE YOUR RIDE” along the front edge of the roof.

The final part of the transformation is the hood messaging.

It starts with the title: “YOUR COST FOR THIS RIDE” and then continues to explain the $15,000+ legal cost plus immediate seven-day vehicle impoundment, 90 licence suspension (both Ontario Highway Traffic Act provisions) for the ‘expensive’ ride. Then there’s the one year licence suspension upon conviction, one year of having an ignition interlock, increased insurance premiums, possible termination of employment and a criminal record. The message ends with: ‘DO WHAT’S RIGHT. CHOOSE LIFE. DRIVE SOBER!”

Outwardly the vehicle appears to be complete, although it no longer has an engine or transmission and so needs to be delivered using a flatbed tow truck and manually pushed and steered into location. A faux-vanity licence plate reads “32 RIDE”.

Much attention was given to the details, including typical wheel cover treatments – nice decorative plastic wheel covers for both rear wheels and the typical black police style wheels with nothing more than a chrome centre cap fitted to the front. The body-shop team had to custom manufacture a pair of mounting brackets for the surplus roof-light since they had none to fit a Chevrolet Malibu.

{News event}

An official media launch event was held Nov. 27 at Mel Lastman Square in the North York area of Toronto to coincide with the beginning of the annual Christmas season RIDE program.

In addition to unveiling the car, a staged crash-scene was set-up in the curb lane of Yonge St. in front of the square featuring two previously crashed cars, complete with broken off parts and bumper skins. Empty wine bottles littered the roadway between the cars. Dry ice created a smoke or steam effect. Several pedestrians passing the scene were so convinced it was a real crash scene that they approached officers to ask whether everyone was all-right.

The TPS Traffic Services (TSV) mobile breath alcohol testing unit, a large custom built recreational vehicle sized truck often used at large RIDE spotcheck locations, was also on hand. Complete breathalyser tests can be done in the unit and prisoner processing can also be commenced. TSV unit commander Supt. Gord Jones lent his team’s expertise and presence to the launch.

Representatives from “arrive alive – DRIVE SOBER” (www.arrivealive.org) and Mothers Against Drunk Driver (MADD) Canada (www.madd.ca) also attended to help reinforce the message.

The launch received good coverage in traditional TV and print media and on social media with the Twitter hashtag #ChooseYourRide.

After the media launch the vehicle was temporarily stored indoors in the 32 Division garage, awaiting the beginning of its public tour of shopping malls and public events over the Christmas shopping season. It should help illustrate the financial implications of being arrested and convicted of impaired driving, something not usually mentioned in the standard anti-impaired driving messaging.