Police come across fewer impaired drivers

North Okanagan RCMP report only one IRP in last week

Perhaps it was the shoddy weather or maybe North Okanagan motorists are getting the message.

Whatever the case, local Mounties are pleased to report that last week they only handed out one three-day immediate roadside suspension.

“That is really a huge change,” said RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk of the drop in impaired driving. “That hasn’t happened for a long time.”

The message is apparently getting through to more than just local drivers.

Since tougher impaired driving penalties came into effect 10 months ago, there has been a 50 per cent drop in drunk driving related deaths across B.C.

Therefore the provincial government recently announced that the stricter penalties (with the threat of stiff fines and car impoundments) are here to stay, following a review of the rules.

Preliminary numbers show 30 deaths in alcohol-related crashes in the first seven months of the new regulations, down from an average of 61 fatalities in the same October-to-April period of the previous five years.

Police can now impose an immediate penalty on any driver who blows in the “warn” range between 0.05 and 0.08.

Instead of issuing a 24-hour suspension or a formal impaired charge, police can impose a 90-day driving ban, a $500 fine and impound the vehicle for 30 days, with the owner on the hook for the towing and storage charges.

Although the new rules are here to stay, a previously promised information campaign will not be embarked on by the province.

The campaign was supposed to help educate motorists on how much they can drink before they might exceed the lower blood-alcohol limit.