GRAEME LEBLANC: Excuses, excuses for drunk driving

Member of Greater Victoria's Integrated Road Safety Unit speaks out about drinking and driving

I’ve been thinking about excuses a lot lately. Actually, I’ve kind of been obsessing about them.

As a police officer who works at the Integrated Road Safety Unit, a traffic enforcement unit responsible for road safety throughout the Greater Victoria area, I hear a lot of excuses. And I really do mean a lot.

Our mandate is to reduce serious injury and fatal collisions by catching people doing those things that will kill or injure you or others – things like not wearing a seat belt, speeding, going through that stale yellow light, texting or using a cellphone while driving, and impaired driving.

The thing is, the people that I catch know what they’re doing is wrong. Typically, the excuses reflect nice, normal everyday people attempting to justify something that they know they shouldn’t have been doing. And they’re usually embarrassed that they got caught.

It’s the excuses I hear for impaired driving that bother me the most. Impaired driving remains the No. 1 criminal cause of death in Canada. I would argue that it is also the No. 1 preventable criminal cause of death in Canada.

In one case at a roadblock during the summer, a lady drove up in an SUV and I could see a kid’s booster seat in the back. She lied to me when I asked her if she had been drinking that night, but I could smell the wine from her breath and her lips and teeth were stained red. You know how the rest goes: she blew a fail on the roadside screening device and she received a 90-day driving prohibition and the vehicle was impounded for 30 days.

Now this is a woman who has never been in any kind of trouble in her life, not even a speeding ticket. When I asked her why she would take such a chance, she honestly and nonchalantly told me that she was running out to grab a pack of cigarettes. It was as if the trivial nature of her chore lessened the seriousness of her actions.

I can’t tell you how many people have spent our entire time together telling me that they just haven’t had anything to drink. Or that the meal that they just ate was cooked with alcohol. Or they had just kissed a person who was drunk. The list goes on.

I remember doing the breath tests for a fatal impaired driving collision a few years ago. The accused in the matter, since convicted, was grossly intoxicated.

His behaviour towards us was vile and towards the victim was callous and cruel. It remains some of the worst behaviour from an accused that I have ever dealt with.

We were all sickened, not only that he had killed a young lady, but that he spent the evening blaming the victim for causing her own death.

It wasn’t until I was set to testify at the preliminary hearing about a year later that I learned that the accused and the victim were actually good friends and had spent the evening drinking together. This person is currently serving a federal sentence, and deservedly so.

Some of the excuses I have heard seem to attempt to mitigate a criminal action of various scope and magnitude. The people that I am dealing with on an almost daily basis have lost their sense of social responsibility. Their values and duties to themselves and their community have been replaced with selfishness and indulgence.

Now, I don’t believe it is all doom and gloom. In fact, I believe we are getting much better. Love them or hate them, new laws introduced in 2010 have done more to reduce impaired driving fatalities than any other program implemented since we have been keeping the statistics.  The figures show that fatal collisions are down between 40 to 50 per cent annually, which equates to about 104 lives saved.

On a personal level, I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to be part of the largest reduction in impaired driving fatalities.

There are not too many jobs where you can say you had a part in saving 104 lives.

However, I do believe there is more work to be done. There are still far too many preventable collisions as a result of impaired drivers happening on a daily basis.

I suspect that when myself or one of my colleagues is knocking on your door to tell you that someone you love is injured or has been killed by a drunk driver, you won’t really care what the excuse is.

Acting Sgt. Graeme LeBlanc is on the Integrated Road Safety Unit in Victoria.

Just Posted

Belgian man searches for family of fallen First World War soldier from Victoria

Mark Edward Berton attended Victoria High School and has his grave in Flanders Field

Oak Bay artist co-op highlights autobiographical Snapshots showcase

Snapshots runs from June 4 to 22 at Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Ave.

Federal government actions hurt Sooke hatchery fundraising efforts

Funding denial comes on the heels of fishing closures

SD62 student places third in province-wide French competition

12-year-old Sasha Zandieh won third with a speech on poet Pablo Neruda

Island athlete goes from hoop dreams to icy track

Cyrus Gray hopes to punch his ticket to Olympics in bobsleigh

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Most Read