UPDATED: Impaired driving convictions decrease for third consecutive year

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SUMMERSIDE — The number of convictions for impaired driving decreased for the third straight year in 2013, dropping by nearly 10 per cent over the previous year, according to statistics released Thursday.

RCMP conducting one of the many roadside checks throughout the year in the province.

Sgt. Andrew Blackadar, spokesperson for the RCMP on P.E.I., said fewer people are getting behind the wheel drunk, thanks, in part, to tougher legislation and increased education when it comes to impaired driving.

“Our charges dropped by 22 per cent compared to the previous year. I know it dropped 20 per cent from the year before that,” said Blackadar, who noted that Island RCMP laid 140 impaired driving charges in 2013, down from 187 the previous year.

The total number of impaired driving charges laid on the Island in 2013 was 297, down from 327 in 2012. In 2011, 373 impaired driving charges were laid.

In 2010, 424 impaired driving charges were laid – the highest in the past decade.

Early in 2013, the province launched its Call 9-1-1 campaign, posting signs along major highways encouraging drivers to report suspected impaired drivers, a campaign Blackadar said is working wonders.

“We have been getting a lot of help from the general public. The general public really has to pat themselves on the back for stopping impaired driving themselves,” added the veteran RCMP officer. “The number of calls police receive regarding impaired drivers is about triple the amount of charges laid. That’s because the public is calling and saying ‘I saw a car weaving’ and we go out and check that car and find out maybe it was somebody who dropped something or they weren’t paying attention.

“We are still out there making contact with those cars and drivers and determining they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Of the 15 highway fatalities in 2013, only three involved alcohol. In 2012, seven of the 12 highway fatalities on P.E.I. involved alcohol.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed in the last year is the number of cars that we check,” said Blackadar. “Over one weekend in early December we checked about 4,500 cars in a two-to-three-day period and we didn’t’ lay a single charge for impaired driving.”

After a spike in the number of impaired driving charges in 2010, a concerted effort was made by Island RCMP to curb the crime and educate the public, something, said Blackadar, that is now paying off.

RCMP, along with municipal police agencies, have been publicizing when an impaired driver is caught and, if a charge is laid, naming the impaired driver.

“We’ve been working really hard over the past two years to let people know that we are getting the impaired drivers,” he added. “It’s just really part of a strategy that we are developing to help educate the public that drinking and driving is against the law.”

In February 2013, the Department of Transportation organized the Impaired Driving Summit with the Department of Justice, which brought together law enforcement, MADD Canada and its regional representatives, the Crown Prosecutor’s Office, and an ad-hoc committee on impaired driving.

That summit inspired numerous changes, including legislation requiring an ignition interlock device be installed on the vehicles of first-time impaired-driving offenders for one year and increasing its mandatory use to two years for second-time offenders and five years for third-time offenders.

Provisions were also made that vehicles of impaired-driving offenders be taken away for longer periods of time, such as a six-month impoundment for an offence causing bodily harm, which previously carried an impoundment of 60 days.

The province also explored the use of a special licence plate number sequence to identify repeat impaired-driving offenders to police, something that has not yet been introduced.

“This significant improvement shows that people are getting the message that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is unacceptable in Prince Edward Island,” says Transportation Minister Robert Vessey. “This is a direct result of tougher legislation and increased public awareness by government in recent years, as well as targeted enforcement activities by our police department partners.”

Impaired driving statistics:

-       In 2013, 169 convictions were for first-time offenders, 53 second-time offenders and 75 convicted for the third time or more.

-       In 2012, there were 327 impaired driving convictions on the Island – 189 were first-time offenders, 73 were second-time offenders and 65 were convicted for the third time or more.

-       Statistics in 2010 were the highest in a decade at 424 convictions – 269 were first-time offenders, 80 were second-time offenders and 75 had been convicted three or more times.

-       In 1980, there were 1,570 drivers convicted of impaired driving in P.E.I.

-       For complete impaired driving statistics for P.E.I., visit www.gov.pe.ca/impaireddriving

 

nmacphee@journalpioneer.com

 

Organizations: Department of Transportation, MADD Canada

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Crown Prosecutor, Canada

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