With more impaired drivers than officers can handle, Victoria police shut roadblock down early

Victoria police shut down an impaired driving roadblock earlier than they wanted Sunday morning — they simply did not have enough personnel to handle the number of impaired drivers.

The roadblock near the corner of Yates and Wharf streets was shut down around 2 a.m. Sunday, about two hours after it was set up, because officers on scene were too busy to handle any more traffic..

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“We got so bogged down in paperwork,” said Const. Stephen Pannekoek, who has been on the traffic detail for six years. “If we’d had a couple of more bodies, we could have kept going because it was hopping.”

While police are still tabulating the number of impaired infractions handed out on Friday and Saturday nights, 14 cars were impounded Saturday — most from Yates and Wharf — and 12 on Friday.

“It was surprising,” Pannekoek said. “It got very busy very fast. Every tow truck All-Ways Towing had down there had a car on it and we had cars waiting.”

At one point Saturday night an officer was dealing with an impaired driver on a narrow stretch of the road when another pulled up beside him.

“He was then dealing with two impaired drivers at the same time,” Pannekoek said.

The number of people drinking and driving caught the veteran officer off guard.

“I’m still shocked at how many impaired drivers are out there,” he said. “It’s not a couple of drinks, and [Saturday night] it was one after the other.”

Someone found to have a blood-alcohol level over .05 faces penalties ranging from losing a driver’s licence for three days and having a vehicle impounded to a 30-day suspension.

Penalties for blowing over .08 include 90-day driving suspensions, 90-day vehicle impounds and having to install an ignition control system in your car.

Noise complaint tickets were handed out for what Pannekoek calls “obnoxiously loud” engines.

“The No. 1 complaint we’ve heard province-wide about traffic is about sound,” he said. “COVID made things quiet and people started noticing what’s loud.”

The driver of a blue Corvette got one of those tickets — which carries a hefty fine and a three-point penalty — after revving his engine when leaving the roadblock.

“He showboated and that got us to look at him and he ended up with a ticket,” Pannekoek said, noting the engine is tested when idling rather than revving.

On Friday, police had to deal with two drivers speeding away from a roadblock. One did a U-turn over a concrete median to avoid police, while another vehicle sped through.

Officers did not pursue due to the potential danger to the public of chasing a presumed drunk driver.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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