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Impaired drivers threaten safety at roadblocks

One driver nearly cruised through a roadblock on Blanshard Street
Victoria police removed 15 impaired drivers from the roads this past weekend. Black Press file photo

On Friday night Const. Matt Rutherford found himself in a potentially dangerous situation.

The Victoria police officer was helping conduct a ICBC counter attack to catch impaired drivers around 2 a.m. in the 3000-block of Blanshard Street, when a woman nearly drove through the roadblock.

Officers, who were wearing fluorescent vests, yelled at her to stop. While she was able to brake in time, the driver could have rear-ended the vehicle in front of her or hit one of the reserve constables who were assisting with the roadblock.

“My heart rate got elevated … that driver had no remorse for her actions,” Rutherford said, noting she was in denial about her level of impairment, and later took a breathalyzer test and failed.

“It’s disappointing. Every police department in the [Capital Regional District], as well as Canada, has talked about the negative effects of impaired driving and to think that those are the ones we caught over the weekend, I’m confident there’s probably people we didn’t catch.”

The impaired driver was one of 15 Victoria police took off the roads over the weekend – a number Rutherford called concerning. Police also caught a driver around 12:30 a.m. who didn’t see the VicPD vehicles with their hazard lights on and drove past the roadblock.

According to Rutherford, the driver had been out celebrating his wedding anniversary and had too many drinks, but was remorseful for his actions.

Despite repeated impaired driving campaigns, Rutherford said, police pull over drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, at at all times of the day.

“People need to get the message that drinking and driving, and driving with some level of impairment is completely unacceptable,” he said. “We saw someone in their 20s, another person we stopped was in their 30s or 40s and someone was in their 50s. It’s not a generational gap. We’re still seeing people from all different age groups driving impaired.”

On average, 66 people die in impaired driving-related crashes in B.C. a year, according to ICBC. Impaired driving penalties range from suspensions of 24 hours to 90 days, vehicle impoundment, fines between $600 and $4,000, and in some cases the installation of an ignition lock in the vehicle.