British Columbia

Impaired driving charges up 30% in Lower Mainland

RCMP in B.C.'s Lower Mainland laid 30 perccent more impaired driving charges over the Christmas holidays than the same period the previous year.

Police believe increase may be due to confusion over court decision

The RCMP report a big increase in the number of impaired driving charges in B.C.’s Lower Mainland over the holiday season.

In the two-month period ending Jan. 2, police laid 399 impaired charges up from 308 the previous year, an increase of nearly 30 per cent.

RCMP officers also handed out 332 three-day suspensions, compared to 240 last year, which is more than 40 per cent higher.

Also, officers charged 63 people for refusing to take a breathalyzer test, compared to 37 last year.

Part of the increase might be due to confusion about the recent B.C. Supreme Court decision on drunk driving, said Supt. Norm Gaumont.

The court ruled police can no longer issue an immediate 90-day driving ban for those who fail or refuse roadside screening.

But Gaumont said that doesn’t mean police are backing off on enforcement.

"To set the record straight, refusing to blow remains a Criminal Code offence," said Gaumont.

Those convicted of that offence face the same consequences as those convicted of being impaired, including losing their driving licence, having the interlock device put on their vehicle, and taking the expensive Responsible Driver Program.

Drivers who blow in the warning range — between .05 and .08 blood alcohol — still face immediate suspensions and may have their vehicles impounded.

The statistics released Wednesday do not include charges laid in Vancouver, Delta, Abbotsford and other Lower Mainland cities with local police forces.