Every year in British Columbia over 100 people are killed by alcohol or drug-impaired drivers. Traditional enforcement and education strategies have reduced the percentage of impaired involved fatalities from 40% to 28% in the past 10 years. Impaired driving is one of the four key contributing factors identified in Canada's Road Safety Strategy 2015.

The ‘low-hanging fruit have been picked’. To achieve further reductions, there is a need to raise public awareness and motivate law enforcement officers to make the detection, investigation and charging of impaired drivers a priority.

On May 17, 2008 4 year-old Alexa Middelaer was killed by an impaired driver at 5 o’clock in the afternoon as she stood at the roadside while feeding treats to a horse with her aunt and grandparents. Alexa’s aunt sustained serious injuries. Alexa’s grandparents who were sitting in a car nearby sustained minor injuries. The horse was also killed. Ironically the collision occurred on a day when the family had gathered to celebrate her older brother’s 8th birthday. The driver involved was convicted of a number of criminal offences including impaired driving causing death.

After hearing Alexa’s mother, Laurel Middelaer, speak at the B.C.A.C.P. Traffic Safety Committee meeting in Fall 2008, Inspector Emanuels approached the Executive Director of the British Columbia Automobile Association Road Safety Foundation (BCAA-RSF) with a proposal to increase public and police awareness of the impaired driving problem and challenge police officers in B.C. to increase the number of impaired drivers detected and charged with impaired driving offences. The proposal was to create a process to have the BCAA-RSF recognize the top police impaired driving investigators. The police officers identified would be recognized as part of “Alexa’s Team.”

Inspector Emanuels entered into a partnership with the BCAA-RSF and Laurel and Michael Middelaer, and Alexa’s Team was created in Fall 2008.

The strategic goals of the Alexa’s Team Partnership are:

  • To increase the level of public awareness of the drug and alcohol impaired driving problem.
  • To motivate all B.C. police officers to make impaired driving investigations a priority.
  • To discourage impaired driving by increasing the public expectation of apprehension.
  • To increase the number of impaired drivers detected and apprehended.
  • To communicate to all levels of police management that impaired driving investigations should be an operational priority and to encourage supervisors to provide police officers with the time required to conduct a proper impaired driving investigation
  • To discourage the use of 24 Hour Prohibitions and Administrative Driving Prohibitions as alternatives to complete impaired driving investigations.
  • To recognize the top impaired driving investigators, both internally and publicly.
  • To engage road safety partners, including police, government and other agencies, in a collective program to reduce impaired driving deaths and injuries.

Objectives of Alexa’s Team

The primary objective of the Alexa’s Team Partnership is to pro-actively reduce the number of victims of impaired driving in British Columbia.

In consultation with Traffic managers from both the R.C.M.P. and municipal police departments, the BCAA-RSF and the Middelaers, Inspector Emanuels set the minimum standard for police officers to become members of Alexa’s Team. Each police officer would have to conduct a complete impaired driving investigation on at least 10 impaired drivers in a calendar year. This minimum encouraged police officers to ‘get impaired drivers to court’ and not be satisfied with 24 Hour Prohibitions or Administrative Driving Prohibitions for driver who were ‘criminally’ impaired drivers. In 2011 the minimum criteria was increased in concert with new administrative impaired-driving sanctions that were introduced by the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles in the fall of 2010.

Communication, both public and internal, is a significant component of the Alexa’s Team initiative. The Alexa’s Team Project is regularly communicated through emails and posters to all police officers in B.C. Police officers are challenged to go the extra mile to qualify for membership in Alexa’s Team. (Prior to Alexa’s Team the average number of impaired investigations per year by R.C.M.P. Traffic members was seven).

Twenty-six police officers in the Lower Mainland qualified and became charter members of Alexa’s Team in 2008; including R.C.M.P., West Vancouver, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Vancouver, and Port Moody Police Department officers. In 2008 these 26 officers charged 389 impaired drivers, issued an additional 188 Administrative Driving Prohibitions and issued 1,140 24 Hour Prohibitions.

In 2008 the 26 members of Alexa’s Team removed 1,717 drinking drivers from the roadways of the Lower Mainland

In 2009 the Alexa’s Team Partnership was expanded to include all of British Columbia, both R.C.M.P. and municipal police departments. The 175 members of the 2009 Alexa’s Team removed 8,707 drinking drivers from the roadways of B.C. By 2010 the 225 members of Alexa’s Team removed 8,616 drinking drivers from the roadways of B.C.

Last year, the 339 members of Alexa’s Team removed 12,415 drinking drivers from the roadways of B.C. Over a four year period and since its creation, the member of Alexa’s Team removed 31,455 drinking drivers from the highways and communities of B.C.

In 2011, the number of people killed by impaired driving in RCMP jurisdictions in B.C. has dropped to a historical low of 74. Impaired driving enforcement has increased 74% from 2007 to 2011.More than17,000 criminally-impaired drivers were removed from B.C. highways and communities by all police officers in 2011. In the Lower Mainland of B.C., impaired driving fatalities decreased 50% from 2010 to 2011; from 36 to 18, saving 18 lives.

Partnership in Action

In partnership with the BCAA Road Safety Foundation, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. the Middelaer family and all R.C.M.P. and municipal police departments, four public Alexa’s Team recognition events are held in the Lower Mainland of B.C., Victoria, Kelowna, and Prince George. Print, television and radio media cover each of the events. Laurel Middelaer is the primary speaker, personally thanking the police officers for their hard work and commitment and encouraging their supervisors to support them in their efforts. The members of Alexa’s Team are presented with personal, unique Alexa’s Team certificates, a personal letter from the Middelaers and an Alexa’s Team ballcap. The BCAA Road Safety Foundation funded the ceremonies, including the certificates, a professional photographer and lunch. R.C.M.P. Traffic Services funded the baseball caps.

In 2011, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. joined the partnership and have committed to funding the recognition events for the next three years. The Alexa’s Team program provides an incentive to police officers by recognizing their accomplishments and continues to make the public aware of the impaired-driving issue and the consequences of impaired driving. The dramatic decreases in impaired-driving fatalities and injuries in British Columbia are due in part to Alexa’s Team.

Source: RCMP Lower Mainland District Traffic Services, BC


Last updated on: 2015-04-06 | Link to this post