B.C. Highway Patrol kicked off its counter impaired driving initiative last night | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. Highway Patrol kicked off its counter impaired driving initiative last night

An officer conducting a field sobriety test on Dec. 2.

Last night, Dec. 2, was the beginning of B.C. Highway Patrol’s counter impaired driving initiative, Light Up the Province.

All across B.C. highway patrol officers set up roadblocks to intercept impaired drivers to signal the start of its initiative to combat impaired, distracted, and aggressive driving.

“I get anxiety leading up to Christmas knowing I’m going to have to tell someone their loved one is dead. I’d love to be able to go one year without having to tell someone their family member is dead from something that was 100 per cent preventable,” Const. James Ward said at the roadblock in Lake Country last night.

Throughout December highway patrol officers will be increasing random checks and impaired driving roadblock checkpoints.

“Simultaneously all throughout the province highway patrol in assistance with municipal traffic units are doing roadblocks in an attempt to intercept and take impaired drivers off the road. Whether it’s alcohol, cannabis, illicit drugs, or by prescription medication,” Ward said.

RCMP can use breath samples to test for blood alcohol levels, but for impairment from other substances like cannabis officers rely on roadside sobriety tests.

“Currently what we do is we rely on standard field sobriety tests. It’s a prescribed test that we follow, we have a checklist. We check for eyes, the walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test, we test how well you can do these multitasking directions,” Ward said.

There are drug impairment testing kits that other police departments use, but the RCMP does not have them roadside.

“There is a machine, it’s called a Draeger, we don’t have any of those roadside,” he said.

“I don’t know (why we don’t have the kits roadside). It’s probably because they don’t have anything that’s been tested across Canada that’s guaranteed to work in cold environments, hot environments. One of the unique challenges the RCMP faces is our kits and equipment have to be compatible unilaterally across the board. So it has to work in rainy Vancouver, it’s got to work in frozen Nunavut,” Ward said.

He says testing kits for impairment from cannabis and other substances would be helpful, but roadside tests are an effective way to determine impairment.

“Testing kits would definitely be helpful, it would speed up the process. It would give the public a perception of certainty. I have had a lot of people mention to me that these tests we conduct are very subjective, but I can say having done them for 20 years they are very accurate at least in terms of determining impairment. What exactly is impairing someone, now that’s up to the drug experts,” he said.

Once someone is determined to be impaired by something other than alcohol they are taken back to the RCMP detachment where drug experts test them to find out what caused the impairment.

BCHP wants people to be aware that prescription mediation, muscle relaxers, and other medications can cause impairment.

“Impaired driving remains one of the leading causes of criminal death in Canada,” he said. “If you think something’s not right, don’t risk driving. Get somebody else to drive you, call an Uber, that’s a thing now, just walk to 711. The consequences are not worth it.”

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