To date, police have laid 59 impaired charges here in 2015
Peterborough County’s yearly impaired driving charges are amongst the highest in Ontario and could rank amongst the highest in the country.
According to Peterborough MADD community leader Lesley Kirton, Canada has seen a decrease in the number of impaired charges laid per year but Peterborough County continues to see an increase.
“It is ridiculous the amount every week on the court docket of impaired charges. People are just not learning,” Ms Kirton, a victim of a drunk driver herself, explains.
Last year, Peterborough OPP laid 192 impaired charges.
“I know this detachment has a commitment to traffic safety and the officers here work diligently at finding impaired drivers but the simple fact is they seem easy enough to find and that means we are failing somewhere along the way,” says OPP spokesperson constable Jason Folz.
In 2014, Peterborough County made up 16 per cent of the 1,204 impaired charges laid in the OPP Central Region, which patrols over 30,000 square kilometers, extending from the District of Muskoka in the north to Lake Ontario in the south, and from Dufferin County in the west to Northumberland County in the east, making the area number one when it comes to drinking and driving charges.
“Year to year we are either number one or number two in the province,” adds Const. Folz.
“It shows that there is a different attitude perhaps in the area in regards to impaired driving.”
Ms Kirton says MADD continues its public awareness campaign about the dangers of getting behind the wheel impaired but the punishment for doing so isn’t deterring people.
“Maybe it has to get tougher. Look at all the repeats ones we are getting,” she explains.
In January, OPP charged a Cavan man with impaired driving charges after his truck crossed the centre line in front of the Kawartha Slots and collided with a driver coming the other way. OPP officers discovered that the truck driver had a suspended licence from impaired driving incident. On Dec. 21, 2014 Peterborough Police Service had charged this same driver with impaired operation and suspended his licence for 90 days.
He served 12 days in jail on weekends and was fined $3,250.
Tuesday of last week, a man lost his licence and was fined $1,200 for impaired driving at the Peterborough courthouse. He then went outside and tried to drive home. OPP officers stopped him and charged him again.
“The judges are taking away their licences but it really doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of them,” Ms Kirton says.
Along with a suspended licence, those convicted of impaired operation of a vehicle or operation over 80 milligrams are receiving fines in the range of $1,000 to $1,500.
“I have never really seen the financial end as a giant deterrent,” says Const. Folz.
Peterborough OPP officers are also issuing many roadside warnings to drivers that have blood alcohol levels between 50 and 80 milligrams, known as the warn range. Last year, 139 roadside warnings were handed out, leading to licence suspensions, ranging between three and 30 days, depending on the number of times you’ve been caught.
“I think that a lot of the older generation still think you can go out and have a couple of drinks and drive,” Ms Kirton says.
During the May long weekend, seven people were charged with impaired driving compared to one last year. All seven were the result of motorist calling 911 after spotting an intoxicated driver.
“We are seeing more and more people using 911 to call in impaired drivers and the other helpful part to our officers is that they are actually following these vehicles when it is safe to do so and it gives our officers time to get into position to intercept these cars,” says Const. Folz.
To date, there has been 59 impaired charges in 2015, and 391 crashes with 12 involving alcohol in Peterborough County alone.
“We have been touching wood and really lucky in this area that no one has been killed or there has been no horrific accidents in a while but you know it is coming,” says a concerned Ms Kirton.