Something strange is going on in Gatineau, Québec. This river city near the Ontario border seems to be attracting a unique type of criminal: one who is prone to steal construction vehicles and drive them drunk.
Last week a man was found asleep at the wheel of a backhoe parked in a ditch. He was found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .34, or over 4 times the legal limit of .08.
The man had two previous DUI convictions, and in addition, the backhoe was not his.
In case you’re wondering, you can be arrested for impaired driving even if you’re parked and asleep, as long as you’re in the vehicle with the keys in your possession. It’s called “care and control under the influence.” If you’re impaired and at risk of putting a vehicle in motion (as our backhoe thief was), you’re in violation of section 253 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
A backhoe DUI might be cause for concern on its own, but Québec seems to have a hard time holding on to its heavy construction equipment when drunk drivers are around. Earlier this month a man in Gatineau was arrested for driving a bulldozer while drunk.
Incidentally, the bulldozer was not his.
A Construction Vehicle DUI Crimewave?
What’s going on? One theory is that a ring of construction vehicle thieves has fallen on hard times, and is being forced to use very unreliable henchmen to acquire stolen goods.
Another possibility is that these drivers have ignition interlocks in their own cars, and thus have to resort to borrowing whatever vehicles they can find when drunk, because the interlock keeps their own cars from starting.
A more likely theory is that these people, while impaired, showed incredibly bad judgment. That’s the same bad judgment that makes drunk driving so hazardous – and yes, a backhoe can be a real danger – to everyone on the road.
While we do hear about impaired people driving everything from horses to Segways drunk, those are just examples of the bad decisions that people make under the influence – decisions that take more than a thousand Canadian lives each year, and injure tens of thousands of men, women, and children.
There are no ignition interlocks for bulldozers, so it’s up to citizens to work for better drunk driving enforcement, treatment, and supervision. The backhoe will make it back to its owner, but lives can’t be returned to theirs.