Thunder Bay, Ont. police lay 299 impaired driving-related charges in 2020
Police will continue to name everyone charged with impaired driving in 2021
Thunder Bay police charged 299 people with impaired driving-related offences in 2020, a new record for the service.
"Over the last five years, each year has surpassed the previous year for the total number of individuals who were charged," Thunder Bay police traffic Const. Mark Cattani said during a media briefing on Friday. "From a positive standpoint, it shows that our investment as a service in training and equipment in order to intercept drivers is paying off."
"We have more drug recognition evaluators than ever before practicing," he said. "We also have more of our frontline officers who are trained in standardized field sobriety testing than ever before."
However, Cattani said, the numbers show there is also a "larger societal issue at hand."
Twelve of 2020's impaired driving-related charges came during the police service's annual Festive RIDE program, down from 27 charges during 2019's Festive RIDE; police also issued 14 suspensions to drivers in the warn range during 2020's Festive RIDE.
Still, 2020's total number of impaired driving charges marks a large increase over 2019's total of 204.
Police said in 2020, 144 motorists were charged for driving while impaired by drug. Thirty-one of those were impaired by cannabis, while the remainder were impaired by a stimulant drug, such as cocaine.
Police charged 47 people for driving while impaired by drug in 2019.
Meanwhile, there were 153 people charged for driving while impaired by alcohol in 2020, down slightly from 2019's 157.
Police also said Friday they will continue the practice of naming everyone charged with an impaired driving-related offence, which they began doing during the 2020 Festive RIDE in hopes it will act as a deterrent (all names are published on the police service's website).
Cattani said, however, it's too early to tell at this point just what effect, if any, naming those charged is having.
"We are going to continue with auditing the program and its effectiveness on a monthly basis and, over the course of the calendar year, hopefully have a better idea whether it is a long-term part of our strategy, how effective it truly is at deterring drug or alcohol impaired drivers, and see if that's something that we should continue," Cattani said.
He noted that response from the public has been positive, and naming those charged has led to more attention for impaired driving.
"That's what we want to see," he said. "We want that conversation to be had, because if it deters any individual from driving impaired, if it prevents one serious collision that causes bodily harm or property damage, then we can see that as a success."