New road signs in Regina and Estevan, Sask., are calling attention to the ways people can help stop impaired drivers.
Fifty identical signs stating “impaired driver caught here” will be placed in different locations where police apprehended drivers who were drunk or high, following 911 calls from the public.
“This program is really driving home the message that not only is it happening in our community, it’s happening in our neighbourhoods, on our streets, by our house,” said Regina police chief Evan Bray.
The signs highlight SGI’s Report Impaired Drivers (RID) program, which encourages anyone who suspects an impaired driver to call 911 when it’s safe to do so.
“We’re not advocating for people to use their cellphones in a manner that would put them offside with distracted driving laws,” Bray said.
In 2019, Regina Police Service (RPS) laid 348 impaired driving charges, many of which were reported through RID.
“One of the sad facts is that impaired driving charges really haven’t gone down, even though there’s less people on the road.”
Over the program’s 10 years, RID calls resulted in 2,870 Criminal Code impaired driving charges, 581 roadside suspensions and 1,750 other charges.
Bray said callers, who can remain anonymous, are not always certain the driver is impaired.
He said by reporting behaviour such as swerving, weaving, erratic braking, slow driving and other possible indicators, police can hopefully intercept a driver before someone is injured or killed.
“The more information you can give us, the better. The location, the direction of travel, the description of the vehicle, the licence plate if you have it is a key piece of information and our officers will follow up and investigate,” Bray said.
He noted in the odd time when police can’t find the vehicle, officers still communicate with the registered owner of the vehicle and alert them that it was part of a suspected impaired driving investigation.
“The RID program is a guaranteed way to let people know their vehicle was being driven in a way that was suspicious, potentially impaired, and obviously in many cases, we’re able to prove or disprove that by finding the vehicle and speaking with the driver,” he said.
“It’s important that we also understand that we can also help get those drivers off the road. We have to do our part,” said Heather Tatham, with MADD’s Regina chapter.
Tatham’s husband, Garry, was killed by a drunk driver on Regina’s Albert Street in 2014.
“Driving impaired is not an accident, there are only crashes with impaired drivers because it’s a choice those drivers have made,” she said.
Tathom said there’s so much Garry has missed over the last six years, including the addition of four grandchildren to the family.
While the Saskatchewan government has ushered in new laws and penalties since 2014, the number of monthly impaired driving offences remains steady — even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the sad facts is that impaired driving charges really hasn’t gone down, even though there’s less people on the road,” said Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for SGI.
Hargrave pointed to a number of recent, disturbing, impaired driving charges including that of a man allegedly driving impaired with his grandchild in the vehicle.
According to SGI, Saskatchewan police reported 266 impaired driving offences province-wide in April, 325 in March.
The provincial insurer told Global News those numbers are within the typical pre-pandemic monthly range of 200-400 impaired driving offences.