Goose Bay RCMP steps up patrols, uses new tools in fight against impaired driving
© Photo by Bonnie Learning/The Labradorian
S/Sgt. Don Rogers (left) and Cst. Sam Holms of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP detachment are helping make the roads a little safer by cracking down on impaired driving. Both say tips from the general public on suspected impaired drivers are a great help to the RCMP.
S/Sgt. Don Rogers has seen many serious and fatal impaired-related crashes over his 24-year career and it never gets any easier.
“I have been on the scene dozens…hundreds of times,” recalls S/Sgt. Rogers of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP detachment.
“Having to pick up dead bodies from the side of the road, having to tell family members their loved ones are seriously injured or dead, or that their loved one has caused the death of someone else…
“Every time you have to do that, you die a little inside.”
To date, since January of this year, 26 individuals have been arrested and charged with alcohol or drug impaired charges in the Upper Lake Melville area — up from 19 for the same time period in 2013.
The most recent was July 25, when a 19-year old woman was arrested. She will be headed to provincial court at Happy Valley -Goose Bay on Sept. 23 where she face a charge of Impaired Operation of a Motor Vehicle; Impaired Operation of a Motor Vehicle while over 80 mg; and operating a motor vehicle with an expired licence.
S/Sgt. Rogers says cracking down on impaired driving is one of the top three priorities for not only the Happy Valley-Goose bay detachment, but nationally across the Force.
“We always try to look into the future to see what’s coming down the pipe,” he notes.
“When you have an area that is seeing an economic boom, more money, more traffic flow, more people looking to get out socially and recreationally, there is more of a increase, an opportunity, for this behaviour.”
S/Sgt. Rogers said as much as of increase as they have seen, they are also seeing an increase in the calls from the general public who are reporting suspected impaired drivers.
“We have been seeing an increase in reports from the public, whether anonymously or otherwise,” he said.
“We encourage the public to report suspected impaired drivers, as it helps with our goal to make the roads safer for everyone.”
He added initiatives such as the graduated drivers program for new drivers — which has a zero tolerance for blood-alcohol levels — as well as increased check stops, rewards programs for designated drivers, and partnerships with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, are all doing their part in helping to curb impaired driving, but, “…it will never eliminate it.”
“Don’t put me in the position to make the long walk up your driveway,” he said.
While impaired driving may never be completely eradicated, there are some new weapons available to the Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP detachment to help detect it.
Cst. Sam Holm was trained in drug impairment detection in Jacksonville, Florida, in November of 2013.
To date, he has been successful in bringing charges against two individuals who are currently before the courts to answer to drug impairment.
“If an officer suspects an impaired driver after doing the standard field sobriety tests (eye testing, coordination, etc), the individual will be brought to the station for further testing,” explained Cst. Holm.
At the detachment, Cst. Holm will administer more tests, including further coordination tests, but he is also trained in administering clinical tests, such as blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and pupil checks.
“If these tests show a significant level of impairment, a urine sample will be taken and sent out for analysis,” said Cst. Holm.
He notes he has attended many serious and fatal drug and alcohol-related collisions over his career.
“’It’s always on the back of your mind when you’re out on patrol, you’re always looking (for impaired drivers),” he said.
“And it’s always a rewarding feeling to get someone who is impaired, knowing they’re not on the streets anymore.”
He added being involved in a serious or fatal impaired crash is life altering for not only a victim and their family, but also for someone who caused the crash while impaired.
“There are life-altering ramifications for those charged with impaired driving,” he said.
“I think if someone is impaired while driving, they would rather lose their license than live with the fact they killed someone.”
He also offers some common sense advice.
“You’re never going to regret calling a cab or a friend for a safe ride home. But it’s very easy to regret getting behind the wheel while impaired.”