A new “roving CounterAttack” helped Delta police nab several impaired drivers last weekend.
CounterAttack is a fixture on B.C. roads during the summer, with police setting up roadblocks — typically on weekend nights — to stop and deter impaired drivers. Funding for extra policing shifts to staff these roadblocks comes from the province through ICBC.
But in Delta on July 5 and 6, officers on CounterAttack shifts spent part of each night roving roads in marked and unmarked vehicles. The roving patrol was in addition to the traditional-style CounterAttack roadblocks set up for a portion of both Friday and Saturday nights.
According to a DPD press release, the recently-enacted mandatory alcohol screening provision (Bill C-46) authorizes law enforcement officers who have an “approved screening device” at hand to demand breath samples of any drivers they lawfully stop, without first requiring that they have a suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body.
Research shows many impaired drivers are able to escape detection at check stops, the release notes, and this new authority helps police detect more drivers who are over legal limits and reduce litigation regarding whether or not the officer had a reasonable suspicion.
“Our intent is two-fold,” said DPD Acting Sergeant Jim Ingram, who was in charge of both CounterAttack shifts, in a press release. “We want to educate drivers about the new legislation and, of course, we want to take impaired drivers off the road.”
A total of 111 drivers were required to blow into approved screening devices during both the roving and static weekend CounterAttacks. Of those, nine were impaired by alcohol or drug — just over eight per cent of all drivers who were stopped. Police also conducted three standard field sobriety tests, used when a driver is suspected of having consumed drugs.
One driver stopped in North Delta around 9:30 pm on July 6 blew a “fail” on his first try, and then attempted to run from the officer who had pulled him over.
“He ran across the parking lot and crashed into some bushes, but was quickly stopped,” Ingram said.
As the investigation had essentially concluded by that point, the driver will not face potential obstruction charges.
Another driver was unhappy about the new legislative changes, and attempted to debate Ingram about the legality of the new legislation. He eventually agreed to blow into the into approved screening device and registered a zero. If he had not agreed to blow, the release says, the consequences could have included being charged with refusing to provide a breath sample, which comes with the same penalties as blowing a “fail” under B.C.’s Immediate Roadside Prohibition program.
“We also stopped a surprising number of self-proclaimed designated drivers who told us they had nothing to drink that night, yet provided a breath sample that showed they definitely had some alcohol in their system,” Ingram said. “Although those drivers conceded that they weren’t being honest with us, they did not face any consequences as their ability to drive wasn’t affected or impaired.”
The majority of impaired drivers stopped this past weekend were found by officers on the roving CounterAttack, however the release notes that officers on regular patrol duty also regularly stop suspected impaired drivers or respond to public reports of suspected impaired drivers. That weekend alone, those general duty officers dealt with five additional drivers who were impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Between CounterAttack shifts and general duty officers, Delta police took a total of 14 impaired drivers off the city’s roads between July 5 and 7.
“I think the public can definitely expect us to continue with this new tactic of doing roving CounterAttack stops,” Ingram said.
Last weekend’s roving CounterAttack shifts come after Delta police stopped nine impaired drivers over the Canada Day long weekend, none of which were dealt with at static CouterAttack roadblocks.
“The science — and unfortunately decades of terrible experiences — are clear. Drivers who’ve had too much to drink are a leading cause of crashes, injuries and deaths on B.C. roads,” Acting Sergeant Derek Gallamore, head of DPD traffic services, said in a press release.
Five drivers registered “fails” when blowing in approved screening devices, including a driver in Tsawwassen on 53A Street who was spotted by a patrolling officer when the vehicle made a sloppy turn onto 12th Avenue and jumped the curb, two drivers on Scott Road in North Delta, a driver on Ladner Trunk Road who was travelling below the speed limit and struck the curb, and a driver who Emergency Health Services called to report was passed out in their vehicle on a rural road in Ladner.
Although there is an administrative penalty available to police (where drivers are prohibited from driving for 90 days and their vehicles are impounded), police are considering recommending criminal impaired driving charges against four of the drivers they dealt with on the long weekend.