The head of Hinton’s police force is issuing a warning to residents as parties increase over the holiday season.

“It’s basically like playing Russian Roulette when you drive impaired,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Fitzgerald of the Hinton RCMP. “You become a 2,000-pound bullet going down the highway.”

Local police plan to set up traffic stops this December in anticipation of a rise in drunk drivers on Hinton’s roads. Fitzgerald said the check stops will be at random days and times throughout the week.

“Generally what we see over the holidays are your Christmas functions, office parties, various other functions. It’s just a festive season where alcohol seems to be fairly prevalent at most events,” he said. “Any time you increase your police presence you’re going to run into not only impaired drivers but people that don’t want contact with the police for a number of reasons as well.”

Drivers with a blood-alcohol content of more than 0.08 per cent can receive criminal charges and an immediate license suspension, but the Alberta Ministry of Transportation states that levels of 0.05 can seriously hinder driving skills. For this reason immediate license suspensions were increased in September 2012 from 24 hours to three days for those found with a blood-alcohol level above 0.05 per cent. New [Graduated Driver Licensing) drivers can be suspended with a blood-alcohol level above 0.00.

“At the start of a night of a person drinking, your reasoning and judgment is there, but as you consume liquor throughout the evening you’re reasoning and judgment goes out the window,” explained Fitzgerald. “Your level of impairment goes up but you think you’re actually not that bad while your levels are quite severe.”

The province states that one out of five drivers in a fatal collision have been drinking, amounting to 471 alcohol-related vehicle deaths in Alberta from 2008 to 2012 — including 78 fatalities last year. Men aged 18–21 are the most likely to be involved in such tragedies.

“I myself was almost struck by an impaired driver one evening when I was out patrolling and had to take the ditch,” recalled Fitzgerald, adding that the driver was caught by police but had no recollection of the near collision. “Some of our members see vehicles going from almost edge of roadway to edge of roadway, or certainly drifting out across centre line and into oncoming traffic.”

Police encourage locals to make plans for a safe trip home when they go out to socialize this month. Fitzgerald stressed that disaster can always be prevented with a phone call for a taxi.

“If you want to indulge and drink to a level of excess, the police are not against that, but what we are saying is that you have to be responsible,” he said. “I’ve never once investigated an impaired driving collision where the person thought they were going to be in a collision. It’s bad timing and really bad planning.”

Source: Hinton Parklander


Last updated on: 2013-12-29 | Link to this post