An increase in impaired driving and drug seizures is alarming to roadside police, according to West Kootenay Traffic Services’ annual report.
The regional patrol unit’s 2015 statistics highlights a change in the motoring public, says John Ferguson of the South East District.
“Our impaired driving charges increased by 35 per cent and our one, three and seven-day alcohol suspensions increased by 100 per cent,” he noted. “This is an alarming increase. We cannot stress enough the devastation an impaired charge or an immediate roadside prohibition can have on the driver, family or victims of a crash.”
Last year, there were 122 impaired or 90-day immediate roadside prohibitions compared to 90 in 2014.
Police will reevaluate holiday coverage after New Year’s Eve alone generated four impaired charges.
“Boxing Day was busy with four impaired driving infractions,” he adds. “We always thought that day was quiet but (we’ll) have to look at it more closely next year.”
Following a rising pattern, police saw a dramatic increase in drug seizures (450 up from 278) and well over 100 per cent increase in drug trafficking charges (16 up from five) related to the possession of marijuana, LSD, cocaine and GHB for the purpose of trafficking.
“The majority of trafficking charges were from Shambhala, but all were in relationship to road blocks or routine car stops,” Ferguson added.
Seat belt and cell phone-related infractions decreased, but distracted driving continues to be a focus for police. Excessive speeding is also on the unit’s radar with a 50 per cent increase in motorists caught travelling 40 kilometres over the posted speed limit last year. In fact, 65 vehicles were seized for a minimum of seven days for excess speed.
Though there were only four fatal collisions last year, down from 11 the year prior, Ferguson still counts four too many and sends his condolences.
He plans for increased enforcement this year, with a commitment to patrolling in and around drinking establishments and educating the public through schools and media. Members will continue to drive the message: don’t drink alcohol or use drugs behind the wheel.
Ferguson couldn’t say whether the unit had more road checks this year in its vast Kootenay Boundary road system. However, he wouldn’t count on it as manpower did dip slightly.
He told the Nelson Star that some infraction increases had to do with people becoming used to stricter roadside prohibition penalties that came into effect a few years ago. Initially, he adds, people were more vigilant, but “now they’re back to not thinking about it.”
“Our patrol mandate is to make the Kootenay Boundary roads the safest in B.C., and we will continue to strive to do this through enforcement and education,” he concludes.
“We need the public as well to understand that their adverse actions on the roads can and will affect themselves and others.”