Port McNeill RCMP were out on Friday night holding holiday roadblocks, looking for impaired drivers. (Bill McQuarrie - North Island Gazette)

Roadblock: CounterAttack aims to end Driving Under the Influence

The use of designated drivers is now a common practice, especially amongst younger drivers.

While driving during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season, the chances are good you’ll see the familiar blue and red flashing lights of a CounterAttack roadblock on the road ahead of you.

For those who haven’t been drinking or are being driven home by a designated driver, the sight can be reassuring; knowing that every effort is being made to keep drunk drivers off of the roads. And according to Road Safety BC, CounterAttack has played a major role in reducing the number of impaired drivers.

To find out how CounterAttack operates here on the North Island, this reporter was able to spend a few hours last Friday (Dec.13) with the RCMP at a roadblock setup at the corner of Pioneer Hill and Campbell Way in Port McNeill.

This was the first roadblock of the evening, with Constables Brady, Corcoran and Bartlett spending about an hour at this location before relocating to other sites. Throughout the entire evening and at all locations, the officers stopped over 70 vehicles. There were no instances of impaired driving and a total of five warnings for motor vehicle related offences that were handed out.

It was a Friday night, the height of Christmas party season and no alcohol related stops had happened during the evening. According to the officers, the success of the evening can be directly attributed to the awareness created by CounterAttack and more significantly, the Immediate Roadside Suspension program that was introduced back in 2011.

Since 2011 when the Immediate Roadside Suspension program was introduced, the annual number of drivers found to be DUI or driving under the influence (alcohol and drug) has fallen by just over 6000, going from 22,671 to an average of 16,000 in British Columbia.

As the number of drivers found to be impaired has fallen, so too have the number of deaths related to impaired driving. In 2011 there were 111 DUI related fatalities in British Columbia. By 2018 that number had fallen to 51 people, which is a significant and promising reduction.

Despite these improvements, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) report a disturbing new trend in the number of fatalities involving drugs instead of alcohol. Those numbers are, according to MADD, double that of those involving just alcohol, with cannabis being present in almost half of the drug-positive fatal crashes.

Local RCMP is aware of this new trend and as a result, CounterAttack roadblocks in the Tri-Port area often include locally based officers that are trained in the detection of drug related impairment.

Enforcement appears to be having an impact, but after talking with some drivers waiting for their turn to pass through the roadblock, it became obvious that attitudes have changed. Unlike times past, they say the dangers are acknowledged and drinking and driving has become socially unacceptable. And for this Christmas season, the use of designated drivers is now a common practice, especially amongst younger drivers.

– Bill McQuarrie article

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