Good News About the Problem of Impaired Driving

The previous Road Rules article discussed the new Criminal Code impaired driving rules (effective December 18, 2018) by noting that, despite many efforts over many decades to stop this behaviour, it remains a leading cause of death in Canada.  Reportedly there is an average of almost four deaths per day related to impaired driving.

However, googling ‘impaired drivers on NYE retrieves at least three Canadian stories that strongly refute the ‘intractability’ characterization.  In some communities, at least, people are getting the message, and adjusting and adapting accordingly.

BC residents can take particular comfort in two of these stories.  The first from Surrey, BC reports that RCMP officers, having set up roadblocks in the Newton and Guildford areas on December 31st and into the morning of January 1st at which they stopped hundreds of vehicles, found no impaired drivers, and none who failed the roadside breathalyzer tests that were administered.

One headline for the Surrey story pretty much says it all: Surrey RCMP ‘happily surprised’ as NYE road checks net no criminally impaired drivers.  They did, however, issue four immediate roadside prohibitions (IRPs)—presumably four incidents of blowing to the .05 BAC ‘warn’ level under the BC Motor Vehicle Act, not technically a ‘fail’ under the Criminal Code.  They also handed out a number of violation tickets, and apprehended one motorist driving while prohibited.

An RCMP spokesperson said, “… the low numbers suggested people were getting the message about impaired driving and were opting for alternatives such as taxis, public transit and designated drivers. …I think it’s people understanding it’s not just their safety, it’s the safety of other people on the road.”  Road checks on the December 29/30 weekend also indicated a general awareness and effort not to drink and drive with (only) six IRPs and three vehicles impounded.

A second series of reports from the East Kootenay area of British Columbia also reported a “low key” night for New Year’s Eve celebrations.  A spokesperson for the Cranbrook RCMP Detachment said the police “had quite a bit of presence around the community, with several road blocks set-up. … There were very few disturbances … and only one 90-day immediate roadside prohibition was issued. …Most citizens ringing in 2019 made smart choices.”  Kimberley RCMP reported a similar night with only one impaired driver taken off the road shortly before midnight.

The citizenry of Estevan, Saskatchewan (south-east of Regina close to the North Dakota border) also came into the news in this regard.  “New Year’s Eve Saw No Impaired Drivers” is a headline of their local news saying “Police had extra manpower, out in force on New Year’s Eve to provide check stops and make sure people were not drinking and driving.  Police stopped and checked nearly 200 vehicles.  No impaired drivers were located, and several drivers were checked using roadside screening devices with similar results.”  The few tickets issued relating to alcohol misuse were for open alcohol in a motor vehicle, and open alcohol in public.

No news is ‘good news’ is one of those sayings that works both ways. Respecting these stories, it applies, obviously, all to the positive.