York Regional Police might start naming and shaming alleged impaired drivers

After one of the deadliest years in the region's history, York Regional Police say they'll consider publicly naming every driver charged with an impaired driving offence.

Police say names would be published on its website, social media and in news releases

(Greg Ross/CBC)

After one of the deadliest years in recent history, York Regional Police says it will consider publicly naming each person it charges with an impaired driving offence.

"We're trying everything," said Const. Andy Pattenden. "This is just one more tool that may have an impact."

Police say the number of impaired driving offences in the region is climbing. Nine people were killed by impaired drivers in 2016 and police say they pulled 10 to 20 impaired drivers off the road every weekend.

The deadly year followed one of the worst impaired driving cases in Ontario history, when three children and their grandfather were killed on a Vaughan road in September 2015.

York Regional Police say the disheartening year is pushing it to explore the new strategy, but it wouldn't be the first GTA police service to name and shame drivers.

Durham Regional Police publishes the names of impaired drivers on its website, and York Regional Police says its approach may be similar.

"If we [published names] we'd be putting out a media release, we'd be putting it on our social media pages, on our website as well," Pattenden said.

Beyond dissuading impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel, police say publicly naming drivers could also help the public identify offenders who violate their automatic 90-day license suspension.

'No evidence' supporting the strategy

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada), the public naming of impaired drivers has been used by various Canadian Police services for the past 20 years, but the inscrutable nature of the strategy makes its effectiveness difficult to measure.

"We don't know if it works," said MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie, adding that many other public education campaigns are similarly tough to assess.

For some, a victim's story might be most powerful, while others might be moved by the testimony of an offender, he explained.

"We don't always know exactly who it works with but it's important to have the messaging out there," Murie said.

Still, he says MADD Canada will trust York Regional Police with the strategy, especially since the service already ranks highly when it comes to impaired driving signage, citizen tip lines and other initiatives.

"If it's something they think is going to work in their communities then it's something we'll support," Murie said.