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‘Staggering’ number of drunk-driving cases

Aug 30 2012

The Victoria Police Department has put the brakes on 115 suspected impaired drivers since the May long weekend — the equivalent of more than one a day.

Deputy Chief Del Manak called the numbers — which were from Victoria and Esquimalt and included drivers who failed blood-alcohol tests, were under the influence of drugs or refused to give a breath sample — “unacceptable.”

“Just prior to the May long weekend, I had made a plea to drivers to ensure that they weren’t drinking and driving,” Manak said Wednesday at a news conference. “Well, I’m here to tell you as we come into the Labour Day long weekend that that message went largely unheard.”

The regional Integrated Road Safety Unit has also been busy.

“In June, July and August of this summer, our 15-member unit has dealt with 185 impaired drivers,” said IRSU Acting Sgt. Graeme LeBlanc. “We just think that these numbers are staggering, and we can’t believe that a 15-member unit, a small unit like our size, would encounter these kinds of problems with impaired driving.”

The number of IRSU cases is up from 156 during the same time period last year, Leblanc said. The unit’s impaired-driving cases for August were already at 70, well above the 50 seen in a typical busy summer month.

All of the IRSU cases are separate from those of the Victoria Police Department, LeBlanc said.

“Although we work with Victoria police quite often, we start our own files when we generate our own investigations,” he said. “[Our] numbers are for the entire capital region.”

All sorts of situations are coming up, LeBlanc said — including impaired designated drivers.

“Yes, they’re the most sober one in the car, but they’re still impaired,” he said. “We’re catching a resurgence of daytime impaireds — impaired drivers at lunchtime, at five o’clock in the afternoon. That shouldn’t be happening.”

An IRSU officer doing seat-belt checks this week nabbed an impaired driver at about 1 p.m., LeBlanc said.

Enforcement alone is not going to stop drinking and driving, he said. “We really need to engage the public.”

Manak said the advice from police is sinking in for some people, but there is more work to be done.

“We are going to start reviewing strategies about what we can do and what message we can put out, whether it’s through the media, whether we can encourage people to call in more often.”

People who see a driver they suspect is impaired should call 911, he said.

“They are the eyes and ears out there for us,” Manak said. “It is all about safety, because in a matter of a moment, of one decision that’s made, [it] can ruin lives.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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