News

‘Call 911 if you spot drunk driver’

Sgt. Dale Somerville, with the Ridge Meadows RCMP traffic section, and Tracy Crawford, with MADD Canada, show a visor police will be handing out to drivers at drinking and driving checks in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows for the call 911 campaign. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Sgt. Dale Somerville, with the Ridge Meadows RCMP traffic section, and Tracy Crawford, with MADD Canada, show a visor police will be handing out to drivers at drinking and driving checks in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows for the call 911 campaign.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

A campaign that urges people to pick up the phone and call 911 when they see a drunk driver is coming to Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

“Report Impaired Drivers” billboards, funded by Mother Against Drunk Driving, will soon dot both communities, helping police catch impaired drivers before they crash.

People don’t realize it’s a tool they have at their fingertips, said Tracy Crawford, manager of MADD’s B.C.-Yukon chapter.

“It’s proactive way rather than waiting for the next tragedy to happen,” added Crawford, who pitched the public education campaign to councillors in Pitt Meadows on Tuesday.

Research from the 74 Canadian communities with the program shows that, on average, calls to 911 to report suspected impaired drivers doubled in the first year of it.

Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, the first city in B.C. to pilot MADD’s campaign, saw a 30 per cent increase in impaired driving charges after billboards and bus shelter signs went up in 2009.

“We are getting results,” said Crawford. “And now we are hoping to expand the program.”

In B.C., impaired driving kills an average of two people and injures 60 every week. Nationally, drunk drivers kill an average of four people and injure 207 every day.

Ridge Meadows RCMP are eager to get the signs up in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, where road side memorials for people killed in drunk driving crashes are common.

In 2011, six constables from Ridge Meadows traffic section nabbed and charged 79 impaired drivers from Pitt Meadows alone.

Last year, there were 93 calls to dispatch reporting suspected impaired drivers, of those 26 drivers were stopped.

“I don’t see any negatives to this,” said Sgt. Dale Somerville, who heads Ridge Meadows traffic section.

“It helps police do their job. A third of all traffic fatalities in the Lower Mainland are alcohol-related and this could actually reduce that number.”

As part of the campaign, police will track the number of calls made to 911, the number of vehicles intercepted and charges laid.

The campaign will also educate drivers on how to spot a drunk driver, but will also mean a change in the way reports about drunk drivers are handled by 911 dispatchers, who will now make those calls a priority.

“So many people think a drunk driver is not an emergency, but that’s a crash waiting to happen, a fatality waiting to happen,” said Somerville.

Pitt Meadows will be the first city in Metro Vancouver to launch the campaign and the second in B.C.

“Being a long-time resident and coach, there have been two or three kids who I’ve personally known who have died tragically,” Coun. Dave Murray said before council unanimously supported a decision to support MADD’s campaign.

“I think even one loss is too much.”

Signs of impaired driving:

• driving unreasonably fast, slow or at an inconsistent speed;

• drifting in and out of lanes;

• tailgating and changing lanes frequently;

• making exceptionally wide turns;

• changing lanes or passing without sufficient clearance;

• overshooting or stopping well before stop signs or stop lights;

• disregarding signals and lights;

• approaching signals or leaving intersections too quickly or slowly;

• driving without headlights, failing to lower high beams or leaving turn signals on;

• driving with windows open in cold or inclement weather.

 

– MADD Canada

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