Nfld. & Labrador

High impaired driving stats mean police doing their job, says St. John's officer

An RNC officer says high impaired driving stats in St. John's are alarming, but they also mean police are successfully catching dangerous drivers.

Public more involved in reporting suspicious drivers

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Sgt. Paul Didham says three quarters of impaired driving arrests are the result of tips from the public. (CBC)

A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer says that while high impaired-driving stats in St. John's are alarming, they also mean police are doing their job.

St. John's had the highest rate of impaired driving in 2015 of any comparative part of the country, according to a report released Wednesday by Statistics Canada.

The report compared cities with more than 100,000 people across Canada, and relied on police-reported data. 

"I hate to put it out there that it could be a good number, but we look at it that we're doing a good job in detecting and enforcing impaired driving," said RNC Sgt. Paul Didham. 

St. John's tops all Canadian metropolitan areas with the highest rate of impaired driving. (CBC)

According to the results, police in the St. John's area reported a rate of 411 impaired driving incidents per 100,000 people. That's about twice the Canadian average for 2015.

The stats include drug and alcohol impairment, but only include criminal code-level alcohol violations, where a blood-alcohol level reaches 0.08.

"Although the numbers are alarming — we don't like to see high numbers of impaired driving arrests, cause we know it's a problem — it certainly is indicative, and it gives us an idea that we're doing a good job," Didham said.

The report said that the impaired driving rates between regions can fluctuate as a result of a variety of factors, including enforcement practices such as impaired driving road-side stop programs.

It also said detection of impaired drivers may be influenced, more than other types of crimes, by law enforcement priorities and the allocation of police resources. 

Public help

Didham said police in St. John's have driven home the message that impaired driving is unacceptable, and that about three-quarters of impaired driving arrests made by the RNC begin with calls from the public.

"The people have bought into the fact that impaired driving is no longer tolerable," said Didham.

"We receive a lot of calls regarding impaired driving, and possible impaired drivers, and we're responding to that."

With files from Jeremy Eaton