The RCMP and anti-impaired driving groups are hopeful stricter legislation and increased enforcement will help to reduce Saskatchewan’s fatal impaired collisions, which left four dead over Labour Day weekend.

“We’ll knock on wood. We’re having a better year,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Stephane Caron of the traffic services unit. “It’s never a good year. It’s better, in terms of numbers this year. We’re going in the right direction.”

Between Aug. 29 and Sept. 1, the RCMP responded to six vehicle collisions, each resulting in one fatality. The RCMP believes alcohol was a factor in four of the deaths.

“It’s certainly disheartening to see it,” said Caron, adding that the Labour Day weekend statistics were “well-above average” compared with other long weekends.

According to SGI’s 2012 numbers, impairment was involved in 39 per cent of all fatal vehicle collisions. The insurance company reported in August that the number of high- and low-impaired driving charges were higher than at the same time last year.

On Friday, the Saskatchewan RCMP participated in national impaired driving enforcement day, with policing beefed up across the province. Increased enforcement is part of new SGI legislation that came into place in June, which also includes stricter penalties for impaired driving.

Caron said the RCMP is still in the process of increasing enforcement and couldn’t provide a deadline for when it would be at full speed.

Although he said laws similar to SGI’s in British Columbia and Alberta have proven effective, he’s hesitant to place too much onus on enforcement.

“We can only do so much from an enforcement point of view,” he said. “We have limited resources and we’ll never be able to, just strictly through enforcement, bring the issue down to zero.”

He said people taking responsibility for themselves and others when it comes to safe driving is paramount.

For 27 years, Students Against Drinking & Driving Saskatchewan (SADD) has been working to provide young people with the tools to educate their peers about the dangers of impaired driving.

“We hope young people can influence their friends to bring these numbers down,” said SADD student president Meaghann White. “It is unfortunate that the drinking and driving-related collision number is still high.”

She was encouraged by SGI’s recent enforcement blitz, which saw 515 roadside suspensions and 352 seized vehicles due to impaired driving.

MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie said this increased enforcement will make a “tremendous difference” in decreasing Saskatchewan’s impaired driving rates.

“Why do people drive impaired? Because they don’t think they’ll get caught,” he said. “So Saskatchewan now has to go to the next step, which is create that environment by the police enforcement that if you choose to drive impaired, you’re likely going to get caught.”

He offered three steps to tackling impaired driving: Alerting the public of police presence, actually having the police on the roads, and following through with charges.

Murie tempered his comments by saying that with the legislation only coming into play this summer, Saskatchewan deserves more time to judge its effects.

“I think if you get the police out there, and you get all these new resources out there, I think it will fundamentally make a difference over time.”

Source: Leader Post


Last updated on: 2014-09-07 | Link to this post