There may be fewer vehicles on the road, but police are doing roadblocks because people are still choosing to drive while impaired.

The Province
December 16, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions may be keeping people closer to home, but police officers across B.C. will still be out in force this holiday season to try and catch impaired drivers.

For two weeks, members of the B.C. RCMP and municipal agencies have been conducting CounterAttack road checks, and although they hope to see responsible decision-making and fewer motorists out due to cancelled work parties and limits on gatherings, they aren’t taking any chances.

“We’re still going out there,” said Cpl. Mike Halskov, media relations officer for B.C. RCMP Traffic Services. “There’s an expectation that RCMP detachments and traffic units across the province are going to be out there conducting impaired driving enforcement roadblocks, and certainly we are doing that.”

Halskov said it is up to the individual detachments and traffic units to decide the level of enforcement they will provide over the holidays, but they are stepping up checks. When there are roadblocks, officers are taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by wearing personal protective equipment.

Tracy Crawford, MADD Canada’s regional manager for Western Canada, said anecdotal evidence suggests the pandemic has not stopped people from driving while impaired, which makes it as important as ever to get the message out through awareness campaigns to plan ahead.

“We are definitely hearing that impaired driving is continuously happening,” Crawford said. “So, that’s been a big concern for us.”

Sgt. Steve Addison, a media relations officer with the Vancouver Police Department, agreed that some people are still not getting the message.

“We are out on the streets doing impaired-driving enforcement this year as we do every year around Christmas time,” he said. “Our officers are still encountering people behind the wheel who are affected and impaired by alcohol.”

Asked if the VPD had scaled back its enforcement because there are fewer drivers on the roads, he didn’t have a specific answer, but said they also don’t discuss deployment levels.

“We’re still out there doing what we’ve always done, and that’s trying to keep the roads safe,” Addison said.

The story is the same in Abbotsford, and there are roadblocks scheduled around the city, said police spokesperson Const. Rob Dyck.

“It still is a priority to ensure that the few people we do have drinking on the roads, that we stop them,” he said.

Police are still encouraging people, if they go out, to find a safe ride home, whether that is with a designated driver, on transit, in a cab, or with a ride-hailing service. However, there will be one less option this year.

Operation Red Nose announced in October that it would not provide its safe rides this holiday season. The decision was made, in part, because the service involves driving people home in their own vehicles, and the logistics did not work in light of the pandemic.

“The decision was made after long and careful consideration, and not without emotion,” executive director Philippe Giroux said at the time. “We remain convinced that positive initiatives will be possible this holiday season.”

Instead, the organization has launched a month-long online awareness campaign and fundraiser aimed at having people “take the reins” to plan a safe ride home.