EDITORIAL: Facts on drinking and driving are still necessary

CounterAttack numbers are important, whether drinking-and-driving is becoming less common or not

Maybe, after 40 years of the CounterAttack campaign, we have simply become so accustomed to the message that we don’t take note as much.

But this past holiday season – while CounterAttack roadblocks were still out there – the ‘don’t drink and drive’ mantra from local law enforcement officials seemed somewhat muted, compared with past years.

It’s true that many of us have, over decades, altered behaviour that used to be considered the norm and curtailed a lot of seasonal celebration activities that would, inevitably, lead to drinking and driving scenarios.

Compared with the ‘booze culture’ prevalent in the `60s and `70s – just view a few old movies, comedy shows and commercials from the era for a vivid contrast – we appear to have come a long way in changing our attitudes.

But how well are we actually doing with the problem at present?

CounterAttack statistics made public from Surrey and White Rock this past December offer scant information, other than tending to confirm a general downward trend in drinking and driving.

On Dec. 30, the day before New Year’s Eve, Surrey RCMP and Delta Police Department teamed on a joint road check at Scott Road and 66 Avenue between 9:30 p.m. and midnight. Out of 9,000 vehicles that went through, police launched a total of four impaired investigations, found one prohibited driver and wrote 20 tickets for various violations.

The next night, for the whole of Surrey, police cited more than 20 drivers, including four immediate 90-day roadside prohibitions and two 12-hour driving suspensions, but these statistics don’t include general patrol on one of officers’ busiest nights of the year.

In White Rock, statistics are not available for the whole holiday season, but on New Year’s Eve, while more than 20 tickets were written, they were for a “variety of offences” not involving alcohol or drugs.

CounterAttack information from ICBC road safety and community co-ordinator Karen Klein says impaired driving fatalities continue to decrease in the province. Since 1976, she says, impaired-related fatalities have gone down from 300 per year to an average of 65, at the same time that the provincial population has almost doubled from 2.5 million to 4.6 million.

But, she adds, we still have a long way to go – 23 per cent of fatal crashes in B.C. still involve impairment.

As anyone who has personal experience of the tragic devastation caused by impaired driving can tell you – just one drunk driver on the roads is one too many for public safety. And the legalization of marijuana later this year is doubtless going to result in a new slew of impairment studies.

That’s why we continue to welcome – even urge – the continued release of seasonal and annual statistics on impaired driving by our local police. While the grimmer figures are always hard to contemplate, we still need to get an accurate picture of what our progress has been, so that we know what we must maintain and where we must improve.

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