December 11, 2013 - 9:32 AM
"IF WE CAN STOP ONE IMPAIRED DRIVER FROM HURTING HIMSELF OR OTHERS, WE'RE DOING A GOOD JOB"
VERNON - The officer shines his flashlight through the car window, asks the driver how her night is going. Has she been drinking? Nothing suspicious. Wave the woman through. Repeat.
A line forms before the road check. Most cars are ushered through, but every once in a while, a driver is asked to pull to the side.
“You smell alcohol, especially in the crisp air, it’s quite obvious when someone’s been drinking,” Const. Mark Taylor, with the Vernon/ North Okanagan RCMP says.
Taylor is decked out in reflective gear and heavy duty winter wear with long johns underneath. Some of the officers joke that writing a ticket is welcome just because you get to hop in the car and blast the heat for a few minutes. It’s 8 p.m. Saturday night, -16 Celsius out, and they have a long night ahead of them. This is but the first of several planned road checks throughout the North Okanagan. The later it gets, the fewer drivers are shepherded through the stop.
Tonight’s drinking and driving campaign kicks off a national initiative aimed at reminding drivers to stay safe over the holiday season. With Christmas parties a given at this time of year, the RCMP is here to ensure merriment doesn’t turn to mayhem.
“Most people generally are quite happy to see us,” Taylor says. “There’s the odd one that questions why we’re doing our road checks but I think we’ve been out here long enough that people understand we’re an important part of the Christmas season.”
Those who have something to hide aren’t so pleased to run into police. Some get rude, lippy, and belligerent. Many deny they’ve done anything wrong.
“The last impaired I had, just around the corner, he was visibly impaired and blew over the legal limit. His excuse was he hadn’t had a drink at all,” Taylor says. “I’ve heard everything from I haven’t had a drink to I’ve had two... Typically if they say they’ve had two and we’re seeing signs, it ends up they’ve had significantly more than two.”
Taylor peers into a truck, sniffs and smells alcohol. The occupants are ordered out of the vehicle and open alcohol is discovered.
“At least the driver wasn’t drinking,” Taylor says.
Meanwhile, a suspicious limo driver is pulled over. Turns out he doesn't have a license. His passengers pour out of the back seat; not what they’d expected tonight.
By the end of the night, RCMP will have given out one 24-hour driving prohibition, four 90-day immediate roadside prohibitions, and five vehicle impounds for impaired driving. They’ll be out nabbing more drivers throughout the holidays—when and where you won’t know until a cop shines his flashlight through your window.
Impaired driving comes in many forms—alcohol, drugs, prescription medication. If you plan on any of the above, organize a safe ride home. With numerous services available, from taxis to groups like Driving Hands, there’s no excuse for impaired driving.
“I’ve got three kids, a wife, lots of family that travel the roads. I want to make sure they’re safe,” Taylor says. “I’ve seen the results of impaired driving accidents, it’s not a pretty picture. You sure don’t want to see it happen to someone you love. If we can stop one impaired driver from hurting himself or others, we’re doing a good job.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013