The holiday season brings a torrent of announcements about road sobriety campaigns. Police declare that they’ll be out in force, checking cars, watching the roads, and nabbing drunk drivers.
Now the results are in: tallies are being made of DUIs booked. In Belleville, Ontario the magic number is 32. Nine of those drivers were impaired, and 23 were in the “warn range,” with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .05 but below .08.
That number comes from checking almost 4,900 vehicles between November 25th and January 1st. That’s about 132 drivers checked each day for 37 days. The program is called R.I.D.E., for Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere.
But it would seem that R.I.D.E. is not reducing Belleville’s impaired driving by much. After all, we’re talking about fewer than one drinking driver a day, and most of those were below the drunkenness threshold of .08.
According to the Belleville police, the officers spent more time than usual checking the drivers of each vehicle. In fact, that is why so many “warn range” drivers were caught. A cursory check might not show any impairment at all, but if a driver had a BAC of .05, the officer might pick up on that after speaking with the driver for a few minutes.
This might be a good-news bad-news situation, then.
The good news is that fewer drivers are driving outright drunk. Less than a third of the impaired drivers caught was over the official threshold of .08 BAC.
The bad news is that a lot of people have not gotten the message that buzzed driving is drunk driving. Young people especially are prone to believe that they are still excellent drivers even though they have a BAC of .05 or .06. In fact, they might escape detection, but they are less able to handle tricky driving situations, and their judgement and other faculties are compromised.
So there’s a fair chance that many more buzzed drivers are still on the roads, evading checks and causing no harm until something happens that taxes their reflexes, senses or coordination. And that is not good news for Belleville or Canada. Time for some more public education about buzzed driving.