Nanaimo RCMP began its impaired driving CounterAttack campaign this weekend and road checks will be conducted throughout December to get impaired drivers off the road. (File photo)

Nanaimo RCMP began its impaired driving CounterAttack campaign this weekend and road checks will be conducted throughout December to get impaired drivers off the road. (File photo)

Road checks underway as RCMP combat impaired driving

CounterAttack campaign upped targeted enforcement

RCMP road checks this month are meant as one more deterrent against drinking and driving.

Throughout December, Vancouver Island RCMP officers are conducting the annual CounterAttack campaign of road checks to get impaired drivers off the roads. The seasonal enforcement event is normally a joint venture between the RCMP and ICBC, but this year McDonald’s Canada came on board by supplying coupons for free cups of coffee.

“The focus will be on impaired driving,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “We’re moving throughout the city and you can expect police to be in areas you don’t expect them to be in.”

O’Brien said police will be setting up road checks for one to two hours before moving on to another spot. Sober designated drivers will receive gift cards for McDonald’s coffee.

Drivers can expect police to be out conducting road checks every weekend and at various times during the week, O’Brien said.

Numbers of roadside 24-hour driving suspensions and three-day, seven-day and 30-day immediate roadside prohibitions are down in 2020 compared to the same period for 2019, but the drop in numbers doesn’t mean there are fewer impaired drivers on the roads.

“That makes perfect sense because our numbers were decimated during the COVID,” O’Brien said. “Basically our traffic unit was disbanded to augment the resources on the front line and it was that way for three or four months.”

O’Brien said the numbers of criminal convictions for driving with a blood alcohol level over 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or for impairment by drugs, such as cannabis or illegal drugs, have remained low in Nanaimo at seven convictions for 2020 and five for 2019. According to ICBC statistics from 2014 to 2018 an average of 11 people died on Vancouver Island roads in accidents in which impairment by alcohol, drugs or medication was a contributing factor.

One reason impaired driving convictions have remained low in Nanaimo is due to how police are choosing to enforce the crime.

“A lot of the members are going straight to a 90-day [immediate roadside prohibition] because it gets the car off the road, there are immediate consequences and unless there are significant injuries or damage to other property, it allows the members to go on quickly and continue with their work,” O’Brien said. “We know it has an immediate impact because we’re getting those young drivers who are just over the cusp of the legal limit and it’s hitting them hard in the pocket book and that makes a difference.”

On the other hand, O’Brien said, police are seeing higher numbers of responsible drivers who are arranging for designated drivers or hiring driver services to get them and their vehicles home safely after partaking in activities involving alcohol and other substances. Police also expect to encounter lower numbers of impaired drivers because of fewer numbers of seasonal celebrations, such as office Christmas parties and other events that have been cancelled by COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re expecting most of the interaction with drivers to occur between 6 and 10 p.m.,” he said. “It’s the later hours where we expect those numbers to decrease and, hopefully, that will parlay into decreased impaired driving charges.”

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