‘100% preventable’: B.C. police launch CounterAttack against impaired holiday drivers

An RCMP officer performs a breathalyzer test on a driver during a roadside check in Surrey, B.C., just before midnight on Friday September 24, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Holiday revelers be warned: police across British Columbia are launching their annual holiday CounterAttack against impaired driving.

Police agencies in communities throughout the province are rolling out surprise sobriety checks, “strategically established at various times and locations across B.C.,” said RCMP Supt. Holly Turton, vice-chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee.

“All too often, those who are killed in an impaired driving crash are not the impaired driver, but truly innocent people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.

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“Some may call these tragic events ‘accidents’, but they are not. These are collisions that were 100 per cent preventable had someone decided to drive sober instead of impaired.”

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Turton said police would employ a variety of methods to test drivers for impairment, including alcohol screening, standardized field sobriety tests and drug recognition evaluations.

ICBC vice-resident of public affairs and driver licensing Lindsay Matthews said that in the 42 years the CounterAttack program has been in place, it’s delivered noticeable results.

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“Since 1977 when CounterAttack began, impaired-related fatalities have decreased from over 300 per year to an average of 68, while at the same time … population has almost doubled,” she said.

Despite that, impaired driving remains the leading cause of criminal death in Canada, and accounts for just under a quarter of all fatal crashes, she said.

“Though we’ve moved the needle, we still have more work to do,” said Matthews.

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“Today impaired driving continues to be one of the top three contributing factors in fatal crashes in B.C.. These crashes take profound toll on the victims of families and friends.”

Matthews added that along with the human cost, impaired driving puts a financial burden on the province, leading to expensive injury claims and increased pressure on ICBC’s already straining finances.

Officials are reminding the public that if they plan to go out this holiday season and consume alcohol or any other intoxicating substance that they should plan ahead for a safe ride home, whether it be taxi, transit, Operation Red Nose, or, when it is available, ridesharing.

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