Constable Mike Shea shows the Intox EC IR II breathalyser machine at the RNC detachment in Donovans Industrial Park Friday.

He goes to hospitals to take blood samples from them after accidents.

And he looks into the eyes of victims and families, sometimes people who’ve just had someone stolen from them due to a stranger’s decision to drive after a few pints.

“The hard thing for us as police officers when we’re dealing with these types of situations (is) you’re not just dealing with the impaired driving subject, you’re also dealing with the families of the victims,” says Didham, a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary sergeant.

Over the past 20 years, he’s given some 2,200 breathalyzers and been to scenes he’d forget if memory would let him.

“When you see the effects and what people are left with, that’s the stuff that sticks with you for the rest of our careers, the rest of our lives,” says Didham, head of the traffic services division.

The RNC’s overnight report is one of the first things I read after waking. It’s the best way to find out if significant crime happened in the wee hours.

There’s a drunk driver — or two, sometimes three — on the blotter almost every day.

Earlier this week, a 20-year-old was charged with impaired driving twice in five hours, and on Tuesday, police suspended an 82-year-old’s licence.

That latter was the last straw or, in this case, the last call.

I’m tired of reading about impaired driving every morning and felt an urge to write something, something to try to help curb this trend.

I called the RNC and was put in touch with Didham.

“Unfortunately, you’re correct, those numbers are not decreasing,” he said. “They are still consistent and the same numbers we’re seeing year after year.”

Noting one of the RNC’s top priorities is improving highway safety, he offered supporting, somewhat startling, figures.

Last year, the RNC charged more than 400 people with driving with a blood alcohol level over 80 mgs across its three jurisdictions — the Northeast Avalon, Corner Brook and Labrador West.

That’s someone every day, a driver who risked his or her life and possibly the life of someone you know and love.

And those are only the people who got caught.

Someone has most likely driven drunk on your street. Past your kids. Past my kids.

When you think of it, we can fear crime, we can fear terror, we can fear whatever, but the biggest threat we face on a daily basis is someone who sipped a few beers and selfishly got behind the wheel.

In 2014, the RNC charged seven people with being impaired causing bodily harm.

“There are more people killed by impaired drivers on our roads every year than there are people killed by guns and knives combined,” Didham points out. “I still don’t think people are getting the fact that it’s a criminal offence.”

Many who don’t drink and drive know the seriousness and are concerned enough to alert police when they see a vehicle fishtailing through or against traffic.

More than 3,200 people in RNC jurisdictions suspected a drunk driver and called police last year. Didham is grateful, and says that’s one factor in the quantity of charges laid.

But how do we get out in front of it and stop people from deciding to get behind the wheel?

I believe we really, really need to stress the absolute stupidity of the choice to those inclined to drink and drive. We need to do this today. And we need to be blunt about the consequences and strongly remind them that once they cause an accident, there’s no turning back.

“We can’t put the eraser on it and rub it out,” Didham concludes. “It’s too late when something happens.”

Source: The Telegram



Last updated on: 2015-10-08 | Link to this post