(One of a series of stories on prohibited driving.)
Two whiteboards are checkered with squares that include offenders’ names, photos, type of vehicle they own or are known to drive, and other details related to their driving cases.
The list has built to 72 names. This is Staff Sgt. Mike Savage’s prolific prohibited driver program.
“These are individuals who have an identified bad-driving history,” he said.
“Some of them are really dangerous. Some are caught for impaired, they are trying to maintain a job and haven’t lined up alternatives to get to work.”
Instead of focusing on repeat thieves or drug dealers, this program zeroes in on people who have lost their licence and are breaking the law when they drive.
A prolific driving offender is someone who continues to drive despite being banned by the courts.
He or she can be a car thief, a drunk or drug-impaired driver, or someone who gets caught several times speeding or creating danger on the roads by not following the law.
Not only can these drivers pose a threat to others walking, cycling and driving, but they don’t have insurance. So if they do injure or kill someone, there’s no coverage.
“They’re endangering everybody on the road,” Savage said.
“Driving is a privilege, not a right.”
Officers from other sections, not just traffic, tap into the list.
“Anyone from any department can check the board. It increases the number of eyes,” he said.
In 2011, Kamloops RCMP nabbed 35 drivers for being on the road while prohibited. In 2012, that tripled to 106.
Savage brought parts of a regional Kelowna program with him when he moved from the Okanagan to Kamloops in December 2010. Within five months, he had the whiteboards up and the repeat banned drivers becoming better known to all officers out on the road.
When he came, the department was reorganized. In looking at traffic accidents, he noticed that prohibited and impaired drivers were a big part of the statistics.
That has led to beefed up efforts like more road checks, distracted driver blitzes, and the prolific offender program.
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Traffic officers like Const. Steve Zaharia start their shift getting updates from an ICBC database that can be loaded onto a flash drive and plugged into the computer in their cruisers.
Two of the traffic section’s cars are equipped with ALPR: automated licence-plate recognition. It consists of three roof-mounted cameras that can read up to 5,000 plates per minute coming and going in several directions.
The laptop perched in the front of the cruiser will talk to Zaharia when a suspect licence is detected, so he doesn’t need to have his eyes on the screen to know when someone shouldn’t be on the road.
Savage said the two ALPR cruisers work not just with prohibited drivers, but also on amber alerts and even expired licences and insurance.
“If they pass one of our vehicles, the chances are high they’ll get picked up.”
Since the prolific driving offender program started, police have dealt with two prolific suspended drivers who officers were afraid would be spooked into high-speed chases.
“We’ve had some who have run in the past. We’ve had to set up with multiple cars and box them in,” he said.
The reactions from the red-handed drivers is mixed, but what makes Savage and other officers shake their heads is how blasé some of the culprits are.
“Some of them are remorseful they’ve been caught. Some just don’t care,” he said, adding many seem to have the attitude that they’ve got access to a vehicle and they’ll drive if they want to.
“There are some who have gone through with two and three pages of driving records. That’s just par for the course for some of them,” Savage said.
“We’ve taken the stand, you’re prohibited and if you’re going to take that prerogative, we’ll be watching for you.”
The two whiteboards in the detachment are full up with names and descriptions and photographs. But there’s a third one, clean and empty, that Savage will use if he needs to.