Powell River’s annual CounterAttack program is underway, with police looking for impaired drivers.
Powell River RCMP constable Christopher Bakker said police will have roadblocks set up during December and the detachment will be doing extra impaired driving enforcement.
“We are going to be making sure if people are going to parties, we are going to be making sure they have designated drivers,” said Bakker. “When conditions get more slippery and icier, we are going to be doing more enforcement for traffic offences. There will be more enforcement on the road, more check stops and more police presence out there trying to make sure everybody stays safe during the holiday season.”
The CounterAttack program began December 1 and continues until January 1. Bakker said while the Powell River RCMP do roadblocks all year, the detachment steps them up during the holiday season.
“There’s more people out there driving impaired and especially this time of year, when family is so important, we don’t want to be going to people’s houses and telling them their family member has been in an accident,” said Bakker. “Like always, we just want people to be safe. Get a designated driver, plan ahead. If you can’t get a designated driver, get a taxi, or just don’t drink.”
As well as looking out for drinking drivers, RCMP will be looking out for people under the influence of drugs. A number of the members in the Powell River detachment are trained under the standardized field sobriety testing protocol.
“They are very effective in finding drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs,” said Bakker. “Cannabis is the new kid on the block, so we are going to be looking out for people impaired by cannabis and other drugs, as well as alcohol.”
Breath tests can be administered roadside. Under the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), BC has the immediate roadside prohibition program, and if someone is stopped and provides a breath sample on the approved roadside screening device, if there is a fail, an immediate roadside driving prohibition can be issued.
If it is somebody with a history of impaired driving or there has been a collision or injury as a result of the impairment, the driver is taken back to the detachment, where police use the breathalyzer device. In these cases, police would be considering criminal charges against the driver.
“We have lots of members who are trained, have experience and are looking out for those kinds of drivers,” said Bakker.
In 2018, Powell River RCMP responded to 183 impaired driving files, which includes calls from the public and traffic enforcement stops by police. This led to 48 roadside prohibitions under the MVA for alcohol impairment. There were also 14 24-hour driving suspensions for drugs under the MVA.
A total of 21 impaired driving charges were laid under the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) for both drugs and alcohol.
In 2019, Powell River RCMP have responded to 206 impaired driving files, which led to 38 roadside prohibitions under the MVA for alcohol. There have been nine 24-hour driving suspensions for drugs under the MVA and 32 impaired driving charges under the CCC for both drugs and alcohol.
The provincial government, police and ICBC are urging drivers to plan ahead and make smart decisions to get home safely this holiday season.
More than half of impaired-related crashes (56 per cent) occur on the weekend (Friday to Sunday). Impaired driving remains a leading cause of fatal car crashes, with an average of 68 lives lost every year in BC.