York Regional Police have identified St. Patrick’s Day as the single worst day of the year for impaired driving in York Region and, with a little luck from the Irish, the force hopes to see a reversal this weekend in that trend, Supt. Kevin Torrie said.
“Last year alone, on March 17, 18 drivers were charged with impaired-related offences,” Supt. Torrie said Friday morning at York police’s Aurora headquarters, where its latest impaired-fighting tool was officially launched.
The local force rolled out its state-of-the-art RIDE mobile breath-testing truck to media and conducted a tour of the vehicle that replaces its outdated, two-decades old truck.
It features improved functionality, a full connection to the force’s computer network, on-board breath-testing and drug screening, workspace for three officers, and more.
York police Staff Sgt. Sarah Riddell, of the enforcement unit of the road safety bureau, said police can make better use of its resources by conducting the entire process roadside. The RIDE truck has been out nearly every night of the week since January, she added.
With access to the latest technology, the RIDE truck provides York police with the ability to conduct an entire alcohol-impaired driving investigation from arrest to breath test to release.
In addition, York police released the most recent, sobering statistics at this morning’s news conference:
- So far this year, 300 impaired-related criminal charges have been laid. That is up from 265 at the same time in 2018, and 257 in 2017.
- An even more increasing trend, is that York police have so far this year arrested 23 people found passed out behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
- As impaired statistics in York Region increase so, too, do the numbers of calls made by the public to report suspected impaired driving. Under the Safe Roads, Your Call program, York police received 794 in 2018, up from 636 in 2017.
“We will continue to use our resources in an effort to eliminate offenders on our roadways, including a commitment of our frontline and road safety officers, relentless education and awareness messaging in our communities, along with the releasing of names of those persons that are charged with impaired-related criminal offences each and every week,” Supt. Torrie said.
MADD York Region chapter president Katie Apreda believes harsher penalties should be part of the toolkit to combat drunk driving.
“Take their vehicles and licences away, make it a real punishment, because driving a vehicle impaired makes the vehicle a weapon,” she said at the news conference.
Apreda shares York police’s frustration with the climbing incidents of impaired-related criminal driving charges in York Region, despite exhaustive efforts by stakeholders to raise awareness and education around the issue.
“Plan ahead, there’s so many options to get home, leave your car somewhere if you have no choice,” Apreda said. “It’s just not even a question anymore, it shouldn’t even be a choice. I wish I knew what was going through people’s heads so I could stop it.”
Supt. Torrie said it’s clear the community no longer wants to tolerate sharing the roads with impaired drivers. And he noted that the York force’s fight against impaired driving includes running a strategic RIDE program all year long.