DUI numbers decrease
The number of people getting caught behind the wheel after a few too many drinks is declining in Kamloops, but the reasons may not have much to do with tough provincial drinking-and-driving laws.
According to local Mounties, the number of people charged with impaired driving in Kamloops between Jan. 1 and Dec. 4 this year was 88, down from 105 during the same period in 2010.
But, a bigger drop was noted from 2009, when 162 people were charged with impaired driving.
Kamloops RCMP Const. Bernie Ward credits the decline to a greater emphasis by local police on cracking down on drinking and driving in the last two years.
He noted police have made it a priority to put larger numbers of officers on the ground to conduct road checks and educate bar owners and the public on safer alternatives to getting home.
“When there is a feeling locally, the police are interested and intercede when you’re drinking and driving, I think people are more mindful to take the designated driver,” he said, noting 2009 was a particularly bad year for impaired driving.
He also suggested programs like Operation Red Nose, a holiday-season service that sees volunteers drive you and your car home for a donation, are working.
He said the perception by the public is it’s not worth the risk to get behind the wheel drunk.
Last year, the provincial government brought in tough new drinking-and-driving laws but, on Nov. 30, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the most severe of the new impaired-driving penalties infringe people’s constitutional right to a fair trial.
The judge said the increased roadside penalties for blowing in the “warn” range of blood alcohol, from 0.05 to 0.08 per cent, are permissible.
Drivers who blow in the “fail” range above 0.08 should have a chance to challenge the decision if their vehicles are impounded for 30 days and they face thousands of dollars in administrative penalties.
The new roadside penalties seemed to be working, as the province noted a 40 per cent decline in alcohol-related deaths in the first year.
Kamloops RCMP would not comment on the legislation or any adjustments that may come from the ruling.
However, any changes to the laws won’t stop local police from continuing efforts to keep drunks off the road.
This week, Mounties are expected to launch their annual Counterattack blitz for the holiday season.
The campaign includes a greater focus on prohibited drivers, while the detachment received additional funding to have extra officers on the ground conducting more road checks.
Ward noted this year’s campaign will be bigger than in 2010.