The stricter drunk driving laws that came into effect Dec. 18 have drawn plenty of attention, but within the municipal boundaries of Oak Bay not much will change.
“The law, although it has changed, we still have ability to invoke a test based on reasonable suspicion,” said Const. Mike Klein-Beekman. “So myself and other members are very in-tuned to the smell of liquor, and so if I have suspicion, I have the grounds to make that demand. With the change in the law now with regards to just doing the test, it’s something new for us because it’s not something we’ve done. We’ve always done our tests based on our suspicion, what we smell.”
The new laws remove the requirement for police officers to require reasonable suspicion that a driver may have been drinking before administering roadside testing. More than 40 countries already had similar laws before Canada’s came into effect.
“I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of officers deviate and go, ‘oh well we’re just going to test everybody’ because you physically cannot test everybody. It takes some time,” Klein-Beekman said. “It’s not something that you want to test everybody because while you’re tied up testing that person, the real impaired driver could be driving through. So we rely on our ability to detect the odours of liquor.”
Klein-Beekman estimates that when officers make contact with drivers – either through pulling them over or in a check-point – it only takes 10 seconds to determine if they’ve been drinking. It takes much longer to administer a breath test.
Oak Bay doesn’t have a large enough force to conduct many large-scale checkpoints on its own. When they do conduct checkpoints, usually they only have a couple officers on scene. However, Oak Bay does send officers to partake in Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU) that specializates in identifying and removing impaired drivers from the road.
“Certain times of the night, typically after 11 p.m. until 3 a.m., one in 10 drivers – based on stats – is impaired,” Klein-Beekman said. “Those are based out of U.S. and Canadian stats. One in 10 drivers on a Friday or Saturday night, so peak times when people are out drinking, one out of 10 will be impaired. That’s over 100mg. It’s scary when you think about it. From a policing perspective, when you’re driving around, you know at that time of the night there’s a higher chance.”
The Oak Bay Police Department said that the weekend of Dec. 21 to 23, the first weekend under the new legislation, two drivers were taken off the road for impairment. ICBC provides funding to police departments during peak holiday season for increased enforcement targeting impaired drivers. Victoria Police Const. Matt Rutherford said that from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24, Vic P.D. removed 42 impaired drivers off the roads.