Toronto

Police issue warning against impaired driving ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations

Ontario Provincial Police are warning people that extra officers will be out patrolling the streets to intercept impaired drivers during and after New Year's Eve celebrations.

Approximately 1,433 impaired driving charges were laid in the GTA this year, OPP say

Approximately 1,433 impaired driving charges have been laid in the GTA this year, OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said. (OPP)

New Year's Eve is a time for celebration and fun, but choosing to drive under the influence can quickly turn to the festive occasion to tragedy. With this in mind, Ontario Provincial Police say extra officers will be out patrolling the streets throughout the night to intercept impaired drivers.

Approximately 1,433 impaired driving charges have been laid in the GTA this year, OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said.

Since the start of its Festive RIDE campaign on Nov. 23, 144 impaired charges have been laid, Schmidt said on Twitter.

If you want to be out there celebrating . . . make sure you have a plan of how you're going to be getting home.- OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt

"It is New Year's Eve and a lot of people are going to be out there celebrating the countdown at midnight, and with that comes champagne or alcohol or all sorts of intoxicants that could impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle," he said.

"If you want to be out there celebrating . . . make sure you have a plan of how you're going to be getting home."

Schmidt is reminding people that the TTC and GO Transit are offering free rides this New Year's Eve and that it's "completely unacceptable" for anyone to be driving impaired. 

"People are dying because of this. The number of fatalities will be calculated and released in the coming days, and we certainly don't want to see that number climb any more than what it already has been, especially on a night like tonight," he said.

"If you are going to be out driving and you've had alcohol in your system, you need to put those keys away. You need to give them to somebody else, but make that plan beforehand."

Toronto police Sgt. Brett Moore says with the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, police will also be on the lookout for people driving while impaired by marijuana. (CBC)

Meanwhile, with this being the first New Year's Eve since the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, police will also be on the lookout for people driving under the influence of marijuana.

Sgt. Brett Moore with Toronto police said the main tool to be used in this regard is a Standard Field Sobriety Trained (SFST) officer.

"We've been using that for over a decade now. We are training extra officers. We're well in excess now of over 300 officers in Toronto," Moore told CBC Toronto.

"It's essentially an officer who's got some extra skills who can go out and put a person through a small battery of tests. It doesn't take a long time but it really helps screen out impairment."

Moore said the officer will make a determination whether the person performed well or poorly. Depending on how that person performed, it gives the officer the grounds to proceed further with an arrest and present the person to a drug recognition expert at traffic services.

New penalties

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, new penalties for distracted driving will take effect.

Penalties will include an automatic three-day license suspension upon conviction and fines up to $1,000.

"If you get stopped by a traffic officer at a traffic stop, the ticket will be $615 for having a cellphone in your hand," Schmidt said.

In 2018, Toronto police issued a combined total of approximately 10,800 tickets and warnings for using a hand-held device.

With files from Ali Chiasson