Kim Thomas makes a point of visiting her son’s roadside memorial every weekend.

This past Saturday marked four months since 17-year-old Brandon Thomas of Cochrane was killed by a pickup truck RCMP allege was being operated by an impaired driver and travelling in the wrong lane on Highway 22. Thomas died on scene; Calgary resident Ryan Jordan Gibson, 22, faces multiple charges.

Since the death, Kim has become a proponent for harsher drunk-driving penalties. But now she fears new data from Calgary police indicates tougher penalties for both .08 and .05 driver blood-alcohol readings are being increasingly ignored.

“Maybe if some people weren’t so complacent Brandon would still be here,” she said. “Reality has become a horrible place when you wake up every day and realize he’s not coming home.”

The new statistics reinforce initial concerns from city police after impaired driving charges laid over December’s holiday season remained steady when compared to the year prior. Now, over the first two months of 2013, police have only laid about four per cent fewer Criminal Code charges for impaired driving and refusing to provide a breath sample.

This comes despite harsher penalties introduced in July that see any motorist accused of being impaired barred from driving until the matter is resolved in court. Initial figures provided in the fall saw sharper declines in charges.

Wayne Kauffeldt, whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, said he’s always been concerned the tougher law would follow a similar path as provincewide distracted driving legislation introduced in 2011. Calgary police reported that while compliance with that law was good initially, it slowly tapered off as motorists returned to old habits.

“Quite frankly, drinking and driving have become so much the culture over a number of years that’s it a very hard thing to instantly change,” he said.

The data also provides a snapshot six months after September’s introduction of three-day suspensions for motorists caught with a blood-alcohol level over .05 but below .08. While those measures still appear to be used relatively sparingly — 105 motorists saw such a penalty in January and February — 24-hour suspensions have been driven up significantly (219 issued to February’s end) when compared to data provided for the fall months. The single-day suspension is often used in cases where a blood-alcohol reading is not recorded but police still observe signs of impairment.

But the Alberta government has long maintained true proof of whether the laws have been effective will lie in impaired collision statistics — a Calgary police spokesperson said last week the service is still working to provide hard data in that area.

Alberta Transportation spokesperson Parker Hogan said many factors need to be considered when looking at the police statistics, but added a warning for those still tipping back a few too many before driving.

“It’s the law,” he said. “If you break the law, there are going to be consequences.”

Source: Metro News


Last updated on: 2013-04-09 | Link to this post