Police have launched a new pilot program aiming to use Hamilton’s unique geography to nab drunk drivers and speeders as they head up and down the Mountain.
It’s called “project access intervention,” and it started this month and is running to mid March. Police are setting up stops and ride lanes at access points going up and down the Mountain at the Queen Street Hill, James Mountain Road, the Jolley Cut and the Sherman Access.
The program was launched after police met with stakeholder groups around the accesses who bemoaned the problems they often see, says Const. Peter Wisener. The fact that there are only so many ways up and down the Mountain means problem drivers are funnelled into specific areas.
'We’re not here to hammer you and make your insurance rates go up. We’re here to catch a drunk driver before an accident happens.' - Const. Peter Wisener
“We know there are a lot of issues with excessive speed, seatbelts and drunk driving,” Wisener said. “People keep seeing these things up and down these accesses, and they don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
One accident or construction closure is all it has taken to make traffic grind to a stop in Hamilton as of late. In the fall, the closure of the Queen Street Hill snarled traffic, as well as coming in two months overdue and nearly $1 million over budget. Many people were infuriated by the closure slowing traffic during their commutes.
And though not a Mountain access, a multiple-vehicle crash on the Toronto-bound Highway 403 at Waterdown Road made traffic through the entire city grind to a halt earlier this month.
“These roads are obviously so vigorously travelled each day, and one accident cripples everything,” Wisener said.
Record number of RIDE stops
Officers involved in the project are aiming to do between 1,000 to 1,500 RIDE stops, as well as hundreds of stops for speed and seatbelts. Two criminal charges for drunk driving have been laid as a result of the program.
Not every stop will equal a ticket, Wisener says — rather, the project aims to educate drivers and make them think twice about having a drink before driving.
“We’re not here to hammer you and make your insurance rates go up,” he said. “We’re here to catch a drunk driver before an accident happens.”
“That’s a fundamental goal from the chief down.”
Impaired-driving arrests hit a 15-year high in 2012 when 538 impaired-driving arrests were made. But police held a record number of RIDE checks too, aided by $43,390.66 in provincial RIDE funding.
In 2012, Hamilton police stopped 228,315 drivers in RIDE checks, the highest number ever. There were 167,766 stops in 2011.
The 2013-2015 Hamilton Police Service business plan lists increasing the number of RIDE programs as one of its goals.
In Ontario, the number of deaths from impaired driving decreased from 227 in 2000 to 129 in 2009.