Incidents of impaired driving have declined significantly in the Lakeland in recent years along with the rest of the province.
The latest statistics go up to 2016 and show Bonnyville reporting 87 incidents last year, down from 99 in 2015 and nearly halved from 160 five years ago. Elk Point saw a similar halving in that time frame, going from 68 in 2012 to 38 in 2016. Between ’15 and ’16, St. Paul dropped from 56 to 48 while Lac La Biche actually saw a dramatic increase. Cases there shot up from 34 to 74, but are still way down from 116 in 2012 and ’13.
The real star of the show though is Cold Lake, who only reported 43 impaired driving incidents in 2016, despite being by far the biggest town in the area. While the Lakeland is largely seeing drops in this particular crime, they’re still much higher than the average per 100,000 people across Alberta. Cold Lake is the only district that’s around the average, having a rate of 287.07 compared to 286.65 for the province. The rest of the Lakeland ranges from 675 in Lac La Biche to a whopping 1,282 in Bonnyville.
Andrew Murie, the CEO of MADD Canada attributes the downward trend to many factors.
“Both the provinces and the federal government have toughened up the various penalties for impaired driving and I think finally people are getting the message. We’ve had some terrible crashes that have killed families and I think the public has finally come around to not accepting impaired driving and also another big thing that has happened across the country is if people see a suspected impaired driver they call 911.”
Murie says to further reduce the numbers he would like mandatory screening become law. Currently police can only ask for a roadside breath sample if they have reasonable grounds to do so; mandatory screening would be mainly used a stationary checkstops and have every driver provide a breath sample.
A problem that Murie is anticipating, is the legalization of marijuana.
“We strongly suspect is what we’re going to see is a continued decline in alcohol impaired fatalities, deaths and charges but a great upsurge in the drug impaired ones.”
He adds that as long as governments invest money in the oral fluid screening devices for police and if there are some campaigns before legalization, they won’t “have to spend 30 years like we have with alcohol,” combating impaired driving.