Black Press file photo

Low number of impaired Vancouver Island drivers encouraging, RCMP say

Police say more party-goers counting on designated drivers, taxis and public transit for rides home

There were no impaired driving incidents reported in Oak Bay over New Year’s Eve.

And the number of impaired drivers caught by police in Nanaimo barely squeaked into the double digits over the holiday season.

It was enough to make the RCMP think years of drinking-and-driving messaging is actually working.

“We’re going to say those numbers are probably down because, believe it or not, we actually think that the message might be getting through,” Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien said.

O’Brien did not have statistics available for the 2017 holiday season period, but said police think the figures are down.

“We are seeing a significant number of designated drivers who are actually sober. When the DD program started we’d often check drivers who [said], ‘Yeah, I’m the DD I’ve only had two beer,’ and now they’re actually stone cold sober and a lot of people are calling their buddies to drive, they’re using taxis, Get a Go Go. Maybe it’s too early to be optimistic, but hopefully we’d like to see that trend continuing into the new year.”

“We had about a dozen calls on New Year’s Eve. We received a couple calls about noisy parties and we dealt with a couple individuals consuming liquor in public,” said Oak Police Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties. “Overall, it was a good night.”

From Dec. 15 to Jan. 1 Nanaimo police issued eight 90-day immediate roadside driving prohibitions, one 90-day prohibition to a driver who refused testing for suspected drug impairment, two 24-hour roadside suspensions for driving under the influence of drugs and one impaired driving charge issued by a drug recognition expert.

“Of those eight 90-day IRPs, four of those were on New Year’s Day in the morning, within the first six to eight hours on New Year’s Day,” said Const. Gary O’Brien. “These people continued their partying well into the early morning hours and made the unwise decision of attempting to drive home.”

O’Brien said drivers face the same penalty for failing to provide a sample for a police sobriety test as they would for failing the test.

“It’s the same penalty,” O’Brien said. “You might think you’re impaired, but maybe you’re not.”

New Year’s Eve caps off a holiday season with heightened media around impaired driving. Despite the coverage around Canada’s new impaired driving laws and warnings from police departments, Victoria Police still took 42 impaired drivers off the roads between Dec. 1 and Dec. 24.

To counter impaired driving, ICBC provides additional funds for policing over the holiday season, and B.C. Transit provided free service over the evening of Dec. 31.

Nationally, cases of impaired driving overall have shrunk for the last six years, although drug impaired driving is up.

— with a file from Jesse Laufer



photos@nanaimobulletin.com

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