Impaired driving declining in the county

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Local police are coming across less impaired drivers on county roadways.

Comparing 2017 to 2018, Strathcona County RCMP experience a six per cent decrease in impaired driving offences, from 822 to 751 files.

Impaired operational offences include drunk driving, drug-impaired, and breathalyzer refusals.

“People know the consequences and the risks and possibilities about not only harming themselves, and somebody else, but also the legal and financial consequences of getting caught for impaired driving, so it’s really about education and having people finding alternate ways to get home, whether that be taxis, Uber, or some picking them up,” local Const. Chantelle Kelly explained the decrease.

So far for 2019, 174 impaired driving cases were reported, as of March 22.

Legalized marijuana actually had little impact locally. Since Oct. 17, 2018 to March 22, 2019, only one person was charged out of 13 files created. That incident happened on March 1. The rest of the files ended in insufficient evidence to proceed or unfounded, and three cases are still under investigation.

“For example, sometimes we get calls from people saying they saw someone smoking marijuana in a car, so we’ll investigate it, but we might not be ever able to find that person so we won’t be able to actually stop them or maybe the person didn’t realize it was just a cigarette; that would be insufficient or unfounded,” said Kelly. “Impaired drug cases with marijuana is actually quite low here.”

The latest statistics were divulged as part of National Impaired Driving Week from March 17-23. Impaired driving is the leading cause of death and injury in Canada with 69,000 impaired driving incidents reported by police in 2017 (3,500 of those involved drugs).

Aiming to make roads safer and to save lives, new federal impaired laws came into effect in early December. Changes include a driver can be convicted if they have a blood alcohol concentration at or more than 80 mg within two hours of driving. With cannabis use, prohibited level for THC is between two and five nanograms of THC per ml of blood. Under Alberta’s laws, impaired drivers face an immediate 90-day licence suspension and a one-year participation in the ignition interlock program. There is also zero tolerance for alcohol, cannabis or illegal drugs in the bloodstream of Graduated Drivers License drivers.

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