There has been a decrease in the number of immediate roadside prohibitions (IRPs) issued by the Comox Valley RCMP to impaired drivers this year compared to last year.
From Jan. 1 – Nov. 8, 2017, the RCMP issued 86 IRPs, ranging from three-day prohibitions to 90-day prohibitions. In the same time period in 2016, the RCMP issued 126 IRPs.
But despite the decrease in penalties issued, corporal Brad Matchett with the Comox Valley RCMP doesn’t believe there has been a drop in the number of impaired drivers in the area.
He believes, rather, that there was a shortage of resources tasked with finding drunk drivers this past year. He mentioned that many RCMP members were dispatched to the Mainland during last summer’s wildfires crisis.
“I don’t attribute it to a decrease in impaired driving, but rather a lack of resources locally and having members out on the road catching impaired drivers,” said Matchett, who heads the Comox Valley RCMP’s municipal traffic section.
The length of an IRP depends on various factors in B.C., including the driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level and whether or not they are a first, second, or third-time offender. Prohibitions can range from 24 hours to 90 days, depending on the severity. Vehicle impoundments can also be issued.
Alongside provincially-issued IRPs, criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada may be laid separately to drivers whose BAC is above a 0.08.
Matchett said that in his experience, the problem of impaired driving in the Valley seems to have increased.
“It’s definitely a problem that’s not going away,” he said.
According to a recent news release, the Comox Valley RCMP entered into eight impaired driving investigations from Oct. 17–23. Four of the drivers were issued 24-hour driving prohibitions, three were issued 90-day IRPs and one was released on documents to attend court on a future date.
Matchett said that the time of day that drunk drivers are caught can vary widely.
“It used to be that you’d see impaired drivers primarily on the weekends. But now we’re finding impaired drivers seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” he said, adding that many impaired drivers found by the Comox Valley RCMP are repeat offenders. “We’re getting impaired drivers at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and into the late evening and early morning.”
The prevalence of the issue in the Valley comes despite B.C. having the toughest penalties in Canada for drunk drivers. The province amended its Motor Vehicle Act in 2010 in an attempt to combat the issue and decrease the number of deaths caused by impaired driving.
Leslie Wells of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (Comox Valley chapter) wasn’t surprised by the statistics. She agrees with Matchett that the number of IRPs would likely be higher with more police presence.
“I think they’re pretty low because there are lots of people who drive impaired who don’t get caught,” she said.
The statistics provided to the Record by the RCMP do not account for the month of December, a historically common time period for impaired driving charges. On Dec. 21, 2016, the Comox Valley RCMP nabbed nine impaired drivers in a span of 12 hours.