Idiots still abound — 508 of them to be exact, with 84 of those proving their nitwittedness last month, the height of the season for such stupidity.

But 508 is a remarkable figure: that’s the number of impaired drivers charged by Calgary police between January and July this year, and it represents a steep decline in drunks and inebriates behind the wheel, despite stepped-up enforcement by traffic cops.

Since 2014, impaired charges have dropped by 31%, and driving over .08 charges have dropped by 34%, basically adding up to at least one third fewer impaired drivers in just two years.

“The numbers are dropping, my understanding is they are dropping province-wide, and we’re seeing the lowest number of impaired-related fatalities that we’ve ever seen,” said Traffic Unit Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey.

It’s an impressive reduction, even if there’s still way too many impaired drivers on Calgary roads to pause and celebrate.

But what’s really exceptional is the bigger, long-term picture, for a city that used to be rife with drunk drivers.

Back in 2008, Calgary cops charged 996 impaired drivers between January and July, with 145 in July alone, and it was a precipitous drop that led to this year’s equivalent of 508 and 84 charges.

That’s a staggering 49% reduction for those keeping up on the math.

Stacey, a veteran of the roadside breath test, says there are a lot of factors behind the fall, but one stands out for him more than the others.

“I think hopefully, it’s finally sinking in with this new generation, that this is unacceptable behaviour,” said Stacey.

“Because a generation ago, it was much more common, and when I first started on this job it was nothing be working Checkstop as a young constable and get two or three impaired persons per night, with high readings to boot.

“Now, we’re not only getting fewer impaired, the readings are down, and we rarely see the really high readings anymore.”

Of course, when it comes to drunk driving, there’s no satisfactory grade, and there are still too many selfish fools who don’t get it.

On July 2, a 30-year-old female passenger was killed on Memorial Dr. by a suspected drunk who managed to flip his speeding car and wrap it around a large tree, in a collision that badly injured another woman in the car.

And over the Easter Weekend, a repeat drunk driver allegedly killed a man and sent his wife to hospital after a sloppy pass sent his truck spinning across a Glenmore Tr. median and into oncoming traffic.

Two deaths too many, for a crime that requires constant enforcement.

But while zero impaired charges is the goal, Stacey says the shift in the right direction is at least a reason for optimism.

He says there’s another obvious factor in the decline too, and that was a controversial law which came into effect in 2012, giving police the right to temporarily take away your licence and car for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of greater than .05 but less than the Criminal Code limit of .08.

After that year, impaired charges between January and July dropped from 990 in 2012, to 805 in 2013, and the numbers have kept dropping since.

Yet another factor has to be the obvious and tangible anguish caused by impaired drivers, because now, thanks to social media, the victims can continually remind the rest of society what it means to lose a loved one to a drunk.

Karen Harrison is a perfect example, after losing her brother Tony to an impaired driver in July 2012, after the drunk drove into the path of his motorcycle.

If there’s one silver lining to the otherwise senseless death, it’s that Harrison loss and subsequent grief has become a constant reminder for others not to be so stupid.

“With everything on social media these days, the word spreads, and it doesn’t have to just be an advocate like me, it can be a person who just doesn’t believe in impaired driving making that message clear,” said Harrison.

“People share the information, and it’s definitely in people’s faces more, and that keeps it in the forefront.”

Source: Calgary Sun


Last updated on: 2016-09-05 | Link to this post