'Pleasantly surprised': Surrey RCMP say no one criminally charged for impaired driving at holiday checkpoints
Stricter impaired driving laws came into effect Dec. 18
A spokesperson for Surrey RCMP says he's "pleasantly surprised" no drivers were criminally charged for driving under the influence during the holiday season.
Sgt. Chad Greig said over 3,000 vehicles were checked at various roadblocks over three days.
"I don't know if it's ever happened before," Greig said. "We're pleasantly surprised to see there were no criminal code impaired charges."
Despite that, Greig said, there were still nine immediate roadside prohibitions, three vehicles impounded, a number of tickets issued under the Motor Vehicle Act and one driver arrested.
"We still see, on average, 68 people die in the province of British Columbia due to impaired driving, and that's a number we want to see decline," Greig said.
Iin Nanaimo, police saw a similar trend. From Dec. 15, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019, eight cars were issued an immediate roadside prohibition, down from 12 the year before. One driver refused a roadside test, down from three refusals from the same time period the year before.
Stricter impaired driving laws in effect
Kyla Lee, a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer, says she's not surprised by the overall downward trend.
Lee says it's possible there was more attention on the issue of impaired driving, due to the stricter impaired driving laws that came into effect Dec. 18.
"Studies have shown the strongest deterrent for impaired driving is a public discussion about the dangers of impaired driving and consistent, visible enforcement," Lee said. "That's what we had this year."
Shawn Meehan, who owns a designated driving service, says his business had record-breaking numbers this month.
"We've had the most drivers we've ever had in the history of the company," Meehan said. "Our numbers, as a result, just kept going up."
Meehan suspects the stricter impaired driving laws — which give police the right to demand an immediate breath sample from a driver without having reasonable grounds to suspect a driver is impaired — encouraged people to find alternative options.
"People don't want to lose thousands and thousands of dollars and lose their job and get in trouble and hurt people," he said.
"It's nice to see government policy actually working for a change."
With files from Tina Lovgreen