Prince Edward County OPP detachment commander Staff Sgt. John Hatch joins officers for the Quinte Region Traffic Coalition Festive Ride launch on Highway 62, north of Belleville on Thursday morning. OPP officers from PEC, Quinte West, Central Hastings and Napanee along with Belleville officers stopped dozens of vehicles without incident.

Impaired driving is impaired driving, regardless if that impairment is caused by alcohol consumption or marijuana use.

That was the message delivered by local police forces during the kickoff for the 2018 Quinte Region Traffic Coalition (QRTC) Festive RIDE launch Thursday morning just north of the city on Highway 62.

Representatives from Ontario Provincial Police detachments in Prince Edward County, Quinte West, Central Hastings and Napanee joined Belleville police officers and members of the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health to deliver a message cautioning drivers not to get behind the wheel after drinking or cannabis use — and not just during the festive season.

Prince Edward County detachment commander, Staff Sgt. John Hatch expressed concern the number impaired driving incidents in that municipality this year.

“The main message this year is, know what impaired driving is, because traditionally it was only about drinking and driving, but in this day and age we do have other ways of being impaired and that can be by legal or illegal drugs,” he said. “From a Prince Edward County perspective our impaired driving incidents are up 20 per cent this year and I don’t know whether it’s because our officers are being more proactive, but I do want to reinforce we want to reduce that number because we’ve had 43 incidents this year and that is way too many.”

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health for Hastings and Prince Edward said people have to be aware of the effects of whatever they are using.

“Our goal is to remind people that impaired driving and injuries that occur from impaired driving is one of the top preventable causes of death and injury in Ontario as well as our area,” he said. “Impairment can occur from a number of causes, traditionally we think of alcohol, but it can also be from prescription or illicit drugs or the use of cannabis. There are some misconceptions and people might think it is not affecting them, but in fact it is.”

Staff Sergeant Greg MacLellan, operations manager for the Quinte West OPP said it is likely impaired drivers will be caught.

“We will be looking for impaired drivers whether it’s by alcohol or drug and we are prepared to deal either,” he said. “This is the Festive RIDE, but we do RIDES all year long, but this year we give it extra focus. Officers have the tools to deal with impaired drivers and the message is, if you decide to drive you will likely get caught because we will be out looking for you.”

Central Hastings detachment commander, Staff Sgt. Dawn Ferguson planning ahead is important.

“I want to remind everyone to protect themselves and protect their future by planning ahead,” she said. “The OPP will be out in full force anywhere and anytime. A good rule of thumb is zero should be the limit, there should be no threshold of drinking or drugs when operating a motor vehicle and if you go by that zero limit, everyone will have a safe and happy holiday.

“Also, if someone sees someone driving who they think is impaired, they should pull over and safely call 911 to let us know what’s going on out there.”

Following the introduction of this year’s program, Sgt. Brad Stitt of the Belleville Police Service traffic unit led a large team of officers onto Highway 62 for a blitz, stopping vehicles travelling in both directions.

No motorists showed any signs of impairment.

Source: The Belleville Intelligencer