Princeton cops took at least 158 drivers off the road last year.

Editorial: Princeton’s impaired driving stats are all about enforcement

Many Princeton residents expressed shock recently when The Spotlight reported soaring drunk driving statistics from 2018.

At least 158 drivers were taken off local roads – which is remarkable when one considers that the Princeton RCMP detachment has a service area of approximately 5,000 people.

It was equally remarkable to compare Princeton statistics with those from other communities in the valley.

The local detachment issued almost as many road side suspensions and prohibitions as police in Penticton, Keremeos, Osoyoos, Oliver and Summerland combined.

This ought not to be a reflection on the licensed drivers of Princeton. Can we possibly be that much more irresponsible that everyone else?

(Okay, maybe a little. Previous provincial studies have proven the town has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption, per capita, in all of B.C.)

Really the numbers reflect what Sergeant Robert Hughes called, repeatedly, zero tolerance for drinking and driving,

“There’s no question. If you are caught drinking and driving in Princeton you will be charged,” he said in an interview with The Spotlight.

And he wasn’t kidding.

A look at the numbers shows that most of Princeton’s charges originated with what could fairly be described as moderate drinking (and driving.)

There were 72 24-hour prohibitions and 78 three-day licence suspensions.

Compare that with Penticton, a city of 33,000 that had four suspensions and 36 three-day prohibitions.

This is about enforcement.

And that leads to culture.

Most people tread carefully when trying to justify impaired driving – it’s a completely politically incorrect exercise.

But there have been some social media comments, and even more grumbling on the street, about the number of people being pulled over.

Are the cops watching licensed establishments, and liquor store parking lots, and turning on the flashing lights?

Well, yeah. You can actually see them doing it.

If their aim is to reduce impaired driving, it makes more sense for them to hang out down the street from a bar, than around Little Folks Nursery School.

Decades ago impaired driving was a crime that was often greeted by law enforcement and the courts with a blind eye, a wink or a nod.

There was a culture change – which many attribute to the tireless efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

A societal shift in attitudes eventually impacted the laws.

In this case it appears the law is leading the way on changing culture.

Just don’t drink and drive and you will be okay.

(So will everyone else.)

– The Similkameen Spotlight

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