Long weekends, impaired drivers a dangerous mix

Long weekends over the summer usually see a spike in the consumption of alcohol and drugs paired with driving.

Laurel Middelaer

Laurel Middelaer

Long weekends over the summer usually see a spike in the consumption of alcohol and drugs paired with driving.

The result is often a serious injury or death caused by an impaired driver.

“Normally, we would have seen a spike in impaired driving over the May long weekend, but that wasn’t the case,” said Allan Lamb, president and COO of the BCAA Road Safety Foundation. “Police reported only two driving-related deaths that weekend and we hope to see a zero death rate over the July first long weekend.”

In B.C., approximately two people are killed and 60 more injured per week at the hands of impaired drivers. Transport Canada statistics show impaired drivers cost the B.C. economy $1.6 billion per year, primarily health, police and court costs.

The BCAA Road Safety Foundation along with Laurel Middelaer, the mother of Alexa Middelaer, recently honoured police officers that have been diligent in removing impaired drivers from the roads of their communities.

Over the past three years, 425 officers have become members of Alexa’s Team and have taken more than 19,000 impaired drivers off the roads – 8,616 alone in 2010.

“While it is good news that more and more impaired drivers are being charged and penalized, the numbers are still outrageous,” said Lamb. “Impaired driving is still at epidemic proportions and drivers, family members, friends and the community need to be earnest in their efforts to prevent impaired driving incidents.”

The summer weekends see an increase in impaired driving, especially in those drivers coming from private functions such as barbecues and golf tournaments.

Lamb encourages families, friends and hosts to be responsible in how they serve alcohol and to provide non-alcoholic options or transportation alternatives for those guests that have become impaired.

“The key to reducing serious injuries is attitudes and behaviours. Taking that one moment to have a word with yourself could prevent injury and save your life,” said Dr. Ian Pike, spokesman for The Community Against Preventable Injuries.

Last year the provincial government introduced immediate roadside penalties to save lives, curb repeat offenders and give police more enforcement tools.

These penalties included 90-day driving bans and fines of $500 for drivers who provide a failing breath sample more than .08 per cent blood alcohol count or refuse to provide a breath sample at the roadside.

Drivers caught in the ‘warning’ range between.05 and.08 per cent within a five year period face an immediate, three-day driving ban and a $200 fine for the first offence; a seven-day ban and a $300 fine for the second; and a 30-day ban and a $400 fine for the third.

More information about changes to impaired driving laws is available at www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/osmv/.