Drivers: don’t make that one ‘stupid decision’

Police are on the lookout for impaired drivers at the holidays and throughout the year

Const. Mike Klein-Beekman demonstrates a roadside screening

Officers are on the lookout for all impaired drivers this holiday season.

That means those impaired by alcohol and drugs, as well as the ongoing attack on those driving impaired by bad habits.

“(Immediate roadside prohibitions) have certainly decreased deaths, but people still do it,” said Oak Bay Const. Mike Klein-Beekman.

This year he’s taken 42 drivers off the road as a result of some form of impairment. That includes both immediate roadside prohibitions (IRP) for alcohol and drug impairment and impaired driving investigations.

To the end of November, Oak Bay Police Department handed out roughly 50 IRPs.

Klein-Beekman is also a drug recognition expert, the result of extensive training and testing.

For him it included two weeks of theory in Vancouver in May 2011, followed by nightly studying for the seven-hour final and practical in August.

Saanich and Victoria police departments also have DRE officers, who at times cover the region, dependent on what expertise is needed where on a given day and time, similar to other specialties.

In February, Klein-Beekman will teach the Standard Field Sobriety Testing.

“We need to get people trained because with the potential legalization of marijuana, it’s the next step,” he said. “Smoking marijuana and driving is just as bad as drinking and driving. I don’t care what you do at home. But don’t get into a vehicle after you’ve been doing that. It’s just common sense.”

A roadside prohibition is done quickly and an officer is back on the road removing other dangerous drivers.

Oak Bay’s most recent roadside screening devices are a year old, and so accurate, he’s never had to recalibrate them. However, they’re routinely tested, every 28 days or sooner.

“I’ve never found one of these instruments out yet. They’re very, very accurate,” he said.

A full-blown impaired investigation requires much more time and a trip to the police station.

When an officer determines that’s the course of action, a driver is chartered and warned and they can call a lawyer, or choose not to, and face testing on a larger machine, run by an officer who is a qualified trainer.

That’s a five-day course.

The investigation is an intentionally and necessarily precise routine, punching in information on the driver, officer and standardization of the equipment.

The instrument purges and readies between each test. The officer secures a fresh mouthpiece each time, and the machine times 15-minute observation periods before the first test, and between two tests. It offers up certificates documenting the entire routine, to be used in court.

Impaired driving is still the leading cause of car crashes in B.C. and 27 per cent of vehicle crash fatalities are related to impaired driving, according to ICBC. At the holidays, they see a spike in impaired driving, particularly by liquor and drugs.

“Most impaired drivers, they’re regular everyday decent people that make a stupid decision and get behind the wheel of a car,”  Klein-Beekman said. “There are lots of (car) services available that I think are valuable. Plan your night. Have a safe ride home.”

 

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