Fewer drunk drivers good end to year

It's hard to believe, but of 2,262 cars checked at RCMP road checks through Christmas and New Year's, only one person was charged with impaired driving.

Contrast these figures with 2011 - RCMP caught 26 impaired drivers in the two-week CounterAttack holiday blitz. This included one particularly booze-soaked weekend where 14 drivers, seven times the average, were impaired.

At the time, a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers spokesman here said we have to "make a shift in the way we think as a society."

Has that shift happened? It sure seems something has changed for the better regarding drinking and driving, if this season's stats are an indication.

RCMP report high numbers of designated drivers this year at the roadside checks and Operation Red Nose continued to be highly used in Kamloops. There were 1,094 calls made to the volunteer-run service, which ferries both the driver and their vehicle home safely.

Operation Red Nose program co-ordinator Katie Klassen pointed out there appears to be a new level of responsibility amongst young people who were using the service more than ever, with lots of requests asking for pickup from Cactus Jack's.

It's difficult to say what to attribute this recent success of fewer drinking drivers to.

It could be fear of the province's tougher drinking and driving laws. A driver who blows between .05 and .08 loses his vehicle for three days, incurs a $200 fine, a $250 driver's licence reinstatement fee, impound costs and faces demerit points.

RCMP Const. Bernie Ward suggests the penalties mean people are now thinking about themselves; in the past, people were urged not to drink and drive because of the harm they might do to others. Perhaps it's starting to become part of our social consciousness that the risks outweigh the "benefit" of being able to drive oneself home after drinking.

"Driving away has no part in partying anymore," said Ward.

We aren't naïve enough to believe one season of good stats means the problem of drinking and driving is over.

But the 2012 numbers offer a ray of hope that a shift has begun.

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