Nova Scotia RCMP arrest 1,048 impaired drivers in 2015
'It puts all Nova Scotians at risk by being on the road,' says RCMP Sgt. Leanne Macdonald
RCMP arrested 1,048 impaired drivers across Nova Scotia in 2015, as the rate of drunk driving charges in the province in recent years has remained stubbornly above the national average.
"I feel it's alarming," said Sgt. Leanne Macdonald, acting head of traffic services for Nova Scotia RCMP, which patrols much of rural Nova Scotia and parts of the Halifax region.
"Eleven-hundred Nova Scotians made poor decisions to be impaired and get behind the wheel. It puts all Nova Scotians at risk by being on the road."
According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Nova Scotians were charged with impaired driving at a rate of 217 charges per 100,000 people in 2014.
That's 30 per cent higher than the national rate of 167 charges per 100,000 people.
Cause of trends unknown
While prevalence of impaired driving is dropping over time, the decline is slower in Nova Scotia than in the rest of Canada.
Impaired driving charges dropped 42 per cent nationwide from 1998 to 2014. In Nova Scotia they dropped only 25 per cent over the same period.
Macdonald said she's not sure what's behind those trends.
"I haven't looked at any demographics age-wise or anything like that to make a judgement call there. I just don't know," she said. "It's something to look into."
Nova Scotia's chief public health officer, Robert Strang, said Nova Scotia has among the highest rates of binge drinking in the country.
"That's probably a contributor," he said.
But variations in police enforcement could shape statistics from province to province, Strang said.
"To explain the increasing gap between the national average on impaired driving and Nova Scotia, I think you'd have to look at both the policing side and the alcohol consumption side to explain that," he said.
Macdonald said Nova Scotia RCMP have conducted 3,099 spot checks since April 2014 to try to catch impaired drivers. But public vigilance also plays an important role.
When she was on patrol in Nova Scotia, Macdonald said she'd follow up several public phone tips a month.
Macdonald said if someone sees an impaired driver, he or she should call 911 to report the location of the vehicle and what direction it's driving.
"If they can get a driver description, or even a passenger description, it will be helpful. Vehicle description, licence plate information — anything unusual about the vehicle. All of that is great stuff to help catch impaired drivers," she said.