Impaired driving offences have doubled in Kamloops over the past 10 years, according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, a branch of Statistics Canada.
In 2001, Kamloops police logged 192 incidents of impaired driving. In 2011, that figure rose to 374 incidents, which was a 21 per cent jump from the previous year.
So does that mean there are more drunk drivers on the roads?
Not according to RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned. He says the increase in offenders being nabbed is most likely attributable to improvements in enforcement.
“We have had a number of increases in the total number of impaired by drug cases here in Kamloops because we have a drug recognition expert on staff with our traffic unit,” he said.
“So we probably always had that many people who were driving while impaired but now we’re detecting more because of the advances in the training and recognition of impairment by drug.”
The statistics tell a vastly different story than Kamloops CounterAttack figures over the holidays. Through Christmas and New Year's, only one person was charged with impaired driving out of the 2,262 cars RCMP checked.
In 2011, RCMP caught 26 impaired drivers in the two-week CounterAttack holiday blitz.
Roxanne Engli, chairwoman of the Kamloops chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said higher statistics probably does reflect better enforcement. But it’s still not enough.
“As far as MADD Canada goes, we know that we are not catching enough impaired drivers regardless of the rate, whether they’re going up or down,” she said.
MADD Canada is pushing for random breath testing, which has been used in Australia and New Zealand since the 1980s. Engli says that would reduce drunk driving crashes by 50 per cent in Canada and save the government “billions of dollars a year.”
“It would stop the profiling in any sort of roadblocks and everybody just gets tested. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s simple and it would save lives and injuries in Canada,” said Engli.
Kamloops is not alone in spiking impaired driving offences, which now add up to 435 incidents per 100,000 people.
B.C. as a whole also doubled its incidents over the last decade for a rate of 412 per 100,000 residents.
Comparatively, Ontario had a rate of 130 per 100,000 and Quebec was at 211.
The national average is 262 cases per 100,000 people, up two per cent from 2010.
It was the fourth increase in five years nationally, although before 2007, the impaired driving rate had been on a steady decline since the mid-1980s.
The report says there were 121 incidents of impaired driving causing death in 2011 and a further 839 incidents of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
However, the rates of impaired driving causing death and causing bodily harm per 100,000 population were the lowest in 25 years.
Young adults aged 20 to 24 recorded the highest impaired driving rates in 2011, based on the number of licensed drivers and rates then declined steadily with age.