A strong police presence during the holiday season coupled with tougher laws kept drunk drivers off the road in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Ridge Meadows RCMP report the week between Christmas and New Year was “calm”, with a total of 24 calls on Dec. 24 and 79 calls on New Year’s Eve.
There was also a drop in the number of impaired drivers – with not a single suspension or prohibition handed out on Christmas Eve and only eight drunk drivers being stopped as people rung in 2013.
Sgt. Dale Somerville, in charge of the traffic section for Ridge Meadows RCMP, attributes the decrease in drunk drivers to new legislation that allow police to hand out immediate roadside prohibitions ranging from three days to three months.
“Immediate Roadside Prohibition is working and it is saving lives,” he added.
“There were four traffic fatalities in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows for 2012, three for 2011 and eight in 2010. So we are trending down and this is a very good thing”.
Campaigns by Operation Red Nose, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and RID (Report Impaired Drivers) also contribute to more awareness.
“Drinking and driving is not socially acceptable at all anymore,” said Somerville.
“The general public just does not accept that it is OK to have a few drinks and drive home. What is even better is a lot of young people just getting their drivers license and having grown up with this message: Don’t even consider driving after a few drinks.”
Across the province, police laid 961 impaired related charges from Dec. 2 to Jan. 2, compare to 1,434 for the same period last year.
“There’s been very good media coverage of the new impaired driving legislation and penalties, and I think that’s helped people make better choices,” said Cpl. Robert McDonald, with RCMP Traffic Services in B.C.
Cpl. McDonald points out that even when they were out of uniform, RCMP members were trying to keep roads safe, with a few volunteering with Operation Red Nose on New Year’s Eve, driving partiers safely home.
During the past month, more than 1,419 people in B.C. got ticketed for use of an electronic device while driving, and 213 drivers were caught excessive speeding (doing 40 km/hour or more over the posted limit).
Red Nose #s up
Operation Red Nose saw a marked increase in demand for rides in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows this year as more people heard about the service and more volunteers signed up to drive holiday revellers home.
Over nine days, the Operation Red Nose Ridge Meadows gave a total of 502 rides, a 16.7 per cent increase over the previous year.
The service was staffed by 276 volunteers and saw a total of $12,535 in donations, a 22 per cent increase over 2011.
“We are probably seeing some typically growth because this is the fifth year, but it’s impressive growth as well because we are seeing an appreciation for the service,” said manager Linda Palm.
Palm credits the increase in volunteers for allowing Operation Red Nose to exceed its targets both in donations and rides. More volunteers teams also allow dispatchers to provide rides more quickly.
“When a client calls in for a ride and they are told they have to wait an hour and a half or two hours, they often will make other arrangements. The more teams we have, the sooner we can get to the client and the happier they are,” said Palm.
“The volunteers are so critical to the success to the program.”
Maple Ridge Towing was headquarters for the operation locally and Palm says manager Dena Sorley ensured everything ran smoothly.
PacificSport Fraser Valley, which delivers sport performance programs to help athletes and coaches win medals for Canada, runs Operation Red Nose in Abbotsford, Mission, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Palm said although the service has been in Abbotsford-Mission for 17 years, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows gave more rides and got more donations on two nights.
“Once people are part of a road team, they really find it’s a lot of fun and they find that they are doing a lot of good for the community,” said Palm.
In British Columbia, 4,555 volunteers provided 8,082 rides in 13 communities.