Statistics from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics paint an alarming picture about the state of one of society’s most common crimes. Despite recent pronouncements from the B.C. government and the RCMP suggesting we have fewer drinking drivers on the road, the national stats revealed the rate in Kamloops and across B.C. has doubled in the past decade.
It seems an old ill that has long-plagued our roadways and threatened the safety of citizens is still with us.
More than ever we need to look at ways to keep impaired drivers from behind the wheel, but how? This is not a new problem, yet measures we have long relied on continue to prove inadequate.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers thinks it has a solution. The Kamloops branch told The Daily News Thursday the answer lies in random breath testing instead of the targeted approach police use now as they man roadblocks in key seasons.
Set up a roadblock and make all who pass through blow into a breathalyser, MADD suggested. The approach would reduce the drunk-driving crash rate by 50 per cent and save the government “billions,” MADD claims.
At quick glance — and when confronted by impaired driving rates showing a continuous problem — the idea might seem worthwhile to some. It’s not. Let’s throw this idea behind proverbial bars and forever throw away the key.
Canada is not a police state and the kind of measure MADD proposes amounts to an unreasonable and untenable attack on personal freedom. It’s hard to imagine a more intrusive assault on personal liberty than being forced to blow into a roadside screening device by a uniformed and armed officer for no other reason than you are passing by. It’s in the same vein as being made to open your car trunk to show what’s inside simply because an officer asks. Or being required to allow police to search the basement of your house, just because they want to have a look.
The MADD proposal ignores some key points. First, it suggests police routinely miss many drunk drivers who pass through roadblocks. They don’t. Officers are quite adept at spotting drunks behind the wheel. Few slip through the CounterAttack net. Next, the resources and time required to test all drivers would increase the costs of the CounterAttack program substantially, likely requiring police to cut back on the number of roadblocks.
MADD deserves support for its efforts to fix a public safety problem that causes too much pain and suffering, but its call for random testing is too much.
Instead, let’s consider approaches that solve the underlying problems of alcohol use and abuse in our culture.
Such solutions — while not as dramatic or immediate —bear greater long-term potential to make our streets safer than random testing could ever hope to achieve.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.