B.C. police out in full force against drunk driving tonight

Police across B.C. will be out in full force for New Year’s Eve, looking for signs of impaired driving and stopping cars at roadside checkpoints.

New Year's Eve roadblocks and police checkpoints set up to discourage impaired drivers

Police in B.C. will be out in full force checking for drunk drivers on New Year's Eve. (CBC)

Police across British Columbia will be out in full force for New Year's Eve, looking for signs of impaired driving and stopping cars at roadside checkpoints.

Sgt. Gary Clarke was at a roadblock on the Surrey-Langley border Thursday night, pulling over cars and checking the blood alcohol level of drivers to remind them of the consequences of drinking and driving.  

"We're hoping that a lot of the people who go through here tonight will think twice before driving while under the influence tomorrow," Clarke said.

Impaired driving is the leading cause of fatal car crashes in B.C. — on average, 66 people die as a result each year. More than half of those crashes occur on weekends or holidays.

Police, in partnership with the Integrated Road Safety Unit and ICBC, stepped up CounterAttack efforts against drunk driving throughout all of December.

Surrey RCMP checking for impaired drivers at a roadside checkpoint last night. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

'We're gearing up for New Year's Eve'

Clarke said there will be extra officers looking for drunk driving tonight.

They are also rewarding good behaviour by handing out McDonald's coffee gift cards to designated drivers getting passengers home safely.

Karen Klein, an ICBC road safety coordinator, said the CounterAttack campaign has decreased the number of impaired driving accidents, but more reminders are always needed.

"A lot of people are aware [of the risks]," Klein said.

"But this time of year, given that it's been the Christmas holidays and a lot of people have the week off, we're gearing up for New Year's Eve."

Sergeant Gary Clarke says there will be extra enforcement on New Year's eve. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Each New Year's Eve weekend, police pull dozens of impaired drivers off the roads in Vancouver.

B.C. has the strictest drinking and driving laws in Canada. Penalties range from driving license suspension and vehicle impoundment to hefty fines and jail time.

"Planning to have a safe ride home before you head out is a great idea," said Klein.

For those ringing in 2017 with celebratory drinks, there are also other options such as the volunteer services Operation Red Nose, ride-share apps like Flok, free public transport until 5 a.m. and taxis.