Global News obtained records of alcohol-related licence suspensions between April 25, 2010, and April 24, 2011, as well as the totals of licenced drivers by postal code as of April 30, 2011, from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia under access-to-information laws. The records showed that out of 187 postal areas in the province, three postal codes encompassing Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and much of the surrounding areas were in the top three for alcohol-related prohibitions per 1,000 licenced drivers.
In Dawson Creek and area, with the forward sortation area (FSA) V1G, there were 204 prohibitions given out of 10, 326 total licenced drivers, a rate of 19.76 per thousand drivers. In the V1J FSA – an area encompassing Fort St. John and area – 286 prohibitions were given out of just over 16,806 licenced drivers, or a rate of 17.02 per thousand. Lastly, for the communities in the rest of the northeast region (FSA VOC), there were 381 prohibitions out of 19,272 licenced drivers, a rate of 19.77 per thousand.
The Chilcotin region south of Prince Geroge was the only FSA to have a higher rate of alcohol-related prohibitions per thousand licenced drivers, at 29.66.
Staff Sgt. Darren Traichevich, commander of the Dawson Creek RCMP detachment, said his members are very active in enforcing impaired driving laws with the support of the Peace Region Traffic Services division. For example, he said last Thursday night following the KISS concert at the EnCana Events Centre, police issued 15 roadside prohibitions or suspensions.
“It just goes to show you that, yes, there may be indication that the number of drinking and driving cases are high in northeast B.C., but we are out there and we are enforcing,” he said, adding the detachment averages about 12 impaired driving charges per month.
He said the rest of the Canada Day Long Weekend was quiet, and he attributed that to the public's knowledge of the increased police presence on the roads during holidays.
Last year, the provincial government introduced tougher penalties for drivers who provided a breath sample of more than 0.05 blood-alcohol content, described as the toughest impaired driving laws in the country. The staff sergeant said while those laws haven't necessarily resulted in a decrease in charges laid, the detachment has seen a decrease in serious and fatal collisions.
He added there is an indication the public's awareness of the stiffer penalties for drunk driving has changed people's behaviours.
“People are becoming more aware of drinking and driving laws, and they are curtailing their activities or making alternate arrangements, and that is what we want to see, we want to see safe roads.”
Traichevich said he was reluctant to comment on what factors might contribute to the high rates of drunk driving in the region, other than to say it might have something to do with the affluence of the area.
“The obvious reason is that we are a very vibrant economy up here, and where there is money, there is booze,” he said.
He said his detachment will continue to make enforcement a top priority over the summer, with plans to have extra members on shift during special events. He added they will also be looking for the public's assistance to keep impaired individuals off the roads.
“We're looking for the continued vigilance of the motoring public to call in any suspicious activities they see out there. We want to get those people off the road way and make sure it is safe for our friends and family.”