Dec. 8 WEEKENDER: The workings of the RCMP’s CounterAttack program

As the holiday season kicks off into high gear, so does the local RCMP’s CounterAttack program.

Grand Forks RCMP's Const. Sean Odermatt displays a breath screening device.

Grand Forks RCMP's Const. Sean Odermatt displays a breath screening device.

As the holiday season kicks off into high gear, so does the local RCMP’s CounterAttack program.

With the support from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), RCMP enforcement and education have helped to decrease the amount of facilities over the years.

The most important part of the program is that it has kept 104 people in the province alive, Grand Forks RCMP Const. Sean Odermatt pointed out.

Since the program began 35 years ago, there has been a drop of over 40 per cent in fatalities. According to ICBC, over 300 people were killed due to impaired-related driving in 1975.

“We don’t know who – it could be me, it could be you, it could be one of your loved ones at home,” he said. “But that’s 104 people in one year that are alive due to a new driving process and I think that’s a huge benchmark that we’ve accomplished. There’s value in the immediate roadside probation even with the amount of media attention with the legalities of it – the simple point is 104 people are still alive.”

According to the ICBC, around 36 people are killed each year in the Southern Interior in impaired–related crashes.

“We’re always on the look out and we make it a point to go out more before Christmas to make more of an appearance,” said Odermatt. “When people see that you’re out when they are going to a bar or a party, it acts as a reminder for them to make sure they’re aware of how much they’re drinking.”

Under the Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP), the first time a person blows a warning sample into the breathalyzer, the driver will lose their licence and vehicle for three days and the vehicle will be impounded. The total estimated cost is around $600 for fees, administrative penalties and vehicle impound and towing fees. A warning is considered a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to 0.08.

“A second incident is seven days (license suspension and vehicle impoundment) and around $780, a third is 30 days and is just shy of $4,000 and a fail for the first time is 90 days and $4,040. It’s not cheap,” explained Odermatt. “However, if you get a criminal conviction, it’s also not cheap because if you decide to fight it, you’re probably going to look at around $10,000 legal fees, spread out for about two years with court backlog.”

Odermatt explained the new IRP is a driving prohibition issued to impaired drivers under the Motor Vehicle Act and works alongside the Criminal Impaired Investigations.

Where the Criminal Impaired Investigations has to be completed whenever there is a motor vehicle accident, collision or past conviction in the past five years, the IRP can be done within 20 to 30 minutes roadside.

“If it’s just a road check and someone pulls through and we know alcohol is involved, we’ll likely use the new provincial Immediate Roadside Prohibition. The IRP is much quicker to do,” he added. “Every time I stop somebody and they fail, I tell them to appeal it. You have nothing to lose and the majority of people take my advice. The last person who did it had his case appealed.”

Odermatt does point that everyone has a different alcohol tolerance and it varies from one person to another.

“For alcoholics, their level of impairment means they can drink a lot more, so they can blow over but not necessarily be impaired. Where as I (as a light drinker) would drink a little bit and probably be considered impaired before I blow over,” he said.

Odermatt also noted new drivers are reminded of passenger and alcohol limits, which means no drinking.

Under B.C.’s Graduated Licensing Program, any alcohol found in a leaner or novice driver’s system means an immediate, 12-hour driving suspension. Learner drivers are also not permitted to drive between midnight and 5 a.m.

Learners must also have a supervisor on board, who is at least 25-years-old and can carry only one other person. For a novice driver, they can carry one passenger unless accompanied by a supervisor or by passengers who are immediate family members.

For more information on the program, visit

Grand Forks Gazette