It has devastating effects on families and entire communities and on Saturday Penticton RCMP hope to shine a light on it.
National Impaired Enforcement day puts Mounties out on the streets conducting random sobriety road checks throughout the South Okanagan.
“There is so much out there telling people to make a smarter choice. Where can you not walk in Penticton that is more than 10 minutes? Grab a cab, take a bus or phone a friend. There are so many options available now that there is not really an excuse for driving any place after you have been drinking,” said Cpl. Ted Manchulenko.
Officers will be out and looking actively for people driving under the influence on Saturday as the holiday season kicks off. They are reminding people to make the right choice before they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
So far this year, Penticton RCMP have issued 104 immediate roadside prohibitions relating to impaired driving compared to 108 issued in 2012.
Manchulenko said Mounties have responded to 178 files this year related to complaints of an impaired driver.
He said it can be frustrating to a degree since there are so many campaigns that bring awareness as to the reasons not to drink and drive.
“I would certainly rather deal with it on the front end, rather than the other end where someone is hurt or worse. It is our job, but you never get used to seeing carnage and you certainly don’t look forward to making that knock on the door to tell someone that their loved one is not going to be coming home,” said Manchulenko.
Despite the media campaigns, 95 people die every year in B.C. because of impaired driving and it is one of the top three contributing factors to fatal car crashes. Manchulenko said people often don’t put things into perspective when they get behind the wheel while impaired.
“It could mean the loss of your employment, loss of a method of getting your kids around or your spouse to work and the list goes on and on. It is so simple to fix,” said Manchulenko.
“It is entirely preventable, just don’t do it.
“If you are going to be drinking, figure out beforehand how you are getting home.
“It is one of the few things we can do in life that can prevent yourself or someone else from getting hurt.”
A recent Dutch study found that driving while hungover can be just as dangerous as getting behind the wheel having consumed a few drinks. Penticton RCMP are not limiting themselves on the 9 p.m. to the early morning hour roadside checks.
Knowing that quite often people only catch a few hours sleep then decide to drive home after a night of consuming alcohol, Manchulenko said don’t be surprised to find officers on the roads doing sobriety checks in the early mornings.
“The stats indicate just about half of the events that take place related to impaired occur from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. but we are going to focus a little different this year. There are parties happening at lunch now and those who only catch a few hours sleep then get in their car to drive home at 7 a.m. That person can still be intoxicated at that point. Don’t be surprised to get checked at 3 p.m. or 10 a.m. this holiday season,” he said.
Manchulenko said people should always give a little extra time to get to where they are going at this time of year because of the weather, or if they happen to get in a roadside sobriety check lineup.
He said most people understand that it might take a few minutes to get through.
“I think attitudes are changing. Sometimes waiting in a line up of cars can be a pain, but I think most people know what we are doing is a good idea. You know you are safe, the guy in front of you is safe and the one behind you. People are now on our side for doing this,” said Manchulenko. “There are lots of people out there that thank us for doing our jobs.”