(One of a series of stories on prohibited driving.)
Keeping prohibited drivers out from behind the wheel is a tough problem with no easy fix.
Steve Martin, B.C.’s superintendent of motor vehicles, said there’s little that can be done with banned drivers who ignore their punishment and continue to drive.
“We deal with them in the criminal system. Obviously, if someone is prohibited and driving, they must have done something serious to come to my attention or the court’s attention to be prohibited.”
High-risk drivers are identified through penalty points collected over a two-year period. If a driver gets too many points, prohibitions can begin, ranging from one to 24 months.
The number of drivers with a prohibition of 90 days or more:
* In 2006, 710 in Kamloops, 26,800 in B.C.
* In 2007, 870 in Kamloops, 31,900 in B.C.
* In 2008, 850 in Kamloops, 32,600 in B.C.
* In 2009, 920 in Kamloops, 34,900 in B.C.
* In 2010, 980 in Kamloops, 39,500 in B.C.
* In 2011, 1,030 in Kamloops, 40,000 in B.C. (this spike is attributed to the introduction of the immediate roadside prohibition program that began in September 2010)
* In 2012, 760 in Kamloops, 30,500 in B.C.
Even a bad driver can have a couple of clean years, however, which makes it harder for enforcement.
“Often we see a long-term, 20-, 30-year driving record where they’ve amassed significant amounts of penalty points. But they haven’t been intervened effectively because we have these two-year windows of review,” Martin said.
“For some people, getting a traffic ticket will change their behaviour. For some, getting a one-month ban will change their behaviour. But for some of these high-risk drivers, we need to address how to get them to change.”
Take the case of Felix Duncan Antoine, who was 58 years old in October 2010 when he was sentenced to five years in jail and a 50-year driving ban.
He had a drunk driving record that included 15 convictions. The courts had previously banned him from driving — up to 20 years — to no avail.
Drivers like him have addictions they need to tackle.
Impaired drivers are required to take a Responsible Driver Program that looks at the danger they create on the road, the cost of driving drunk and ways of avoiding it.
Others who are high-risk but not hooked on drugs or booze don’t take that kind of a program. But Martin is looking into creating one.
“We are in the early stages of exploring possible improvements to the Responsible Driver Program. It’s a very narrow program. It intervenes with driving prohibitions only. We’ve seen a tremendous success when we layer in education and counseling for impaired drivers,” he said.
“We’re at the early stages of exploring layering in education and counseling for chronic high-risk drivers. . . . We are looking at the potential to evolve our program and make it more effective to change the long-term behaviour of these individuals.”
The man responsible for the tougher impaired driving laws is aware that high-risk drivers need to be addressed as well.
“Public safety is the concern,” said Martin.
“I think it’s particularly hard for police because they see the very very tragic consequences of this sort of behaviour. And they’re the ones who have to knock on the doors and talk to families of people who are either killed or seriously injured. It’s personal. It can’t help but affect you.”