by Stephen Dafoe
The Morinville RCMP will be focusing on impaired drivers during the month of August, part of the detachment’s ongoing efforts to keep area roads safe by participating with provincial sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies in following Alberta’s traffic safety calendar. Each month of the year, police have a particular traffic safety focus. In July police kept their eyes on occupant restraints, particularly drivers not wearing them. Although August’s focus is on impaired drivers due to increased traffic, it is something the detachment says it is always vigilant about.
“There is more traffic on the roads in August,” said Corporal Martin Gerard of the Morinville RCMP Detachment. “It’s busy. People are driving a lot more than they would in the winter. There are long weekends involved, too, and a lot more social events. It’s a friendly reminder to make people aware.”
Information provided by Gerard’s fellow detachment member, Cpl. Bryce Tarzwell, indicates a reminder is needed. “Alberta currently has the highest rate of impaired driving,” Tarzwell wrote in a recent media release, adding he believed the province’s new impaired driving law will help reduce the number of impaired drivers on provincial roads, resulting in fewer deaths and serious injuries. The new laws provide tougher consequences at the .05 to .08 levels and are designed to discourage drinking and driving before drivers reach the criminally impaired level. “Our goal is to create safer roads by ensuring that Albertans take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel.”
Provincial information provided by Cpl. Tarzwell indicates one in five drivers involved in fatal collisions had been drinking prior to the collision. May to October are the months when the highest number of casualty collisions occurs, and the majority of alcohol-related casualty collisions occur on the weekends between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.
In Alberta 471 people were killed and 7,397 people were injured in alcohol-related collisions between 2008 and 2012. The latter year alone saw 78 people killed and another 1,268 injured.
Call in suspicious drivers
While the police will be vigilant in looking for impaired drivers, Cpl. Gerard recommends that motorists and pedestrians call 911 if they see someone they suspect is driving impaired. “If they really believe they have an impaired driver or if they witness something, they should call 911 and report the incident,” he said, adding motorists are permitted to use their cellphone on the road to call in an emergency.
He also says people should not be alarmed that dispatchers ask a lot of seemingly pointed questions. “We need to determine what are the physical evidences that they are seeing in front of them,” Gerard explained. “Are they swerving? Are they driving on the shoulder? And why do they believe that person is impaired? We are just trying to discover as much detail as we can.” Likewise, Gerard said people should not be concerned about providing name and phone number to dispatchers, as files are created for each report. “It is actually part of the process, and I know people have been asking me that over the years,” Gerard said, adding it can identify repeat callers and be used should the witness be required in court. “We need to have a name, phone number, and address so we can follow up on the complaint.”
The Alberta Traffic Safety Plan Calendar will have police focusing on impaired drivers again in December. September is devoted to back-to-school safety, October will be devoted to occupant restraints, and November will focus on pedestrian safety.