By Richard Leitner
METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
Concerned citizens are once again being credited with helping Hamilton police catch 538 drunk drivers last year – five more than in 2011 and a 15-year high.
Supt. Ken Bond said tips from people who called 911 as part of a police initiative known as Operation Lookout led to 166 of the arrests, down from 180 in 2011 but continuing a trend over the last three or four years.
“Everybody’s kind of looking out and calling in people that are driving erratically, people that they believe are under the influence,” he said.
“People in the 24-hour McDonald’s, Harvey’s and all that sort of stuff, we’ll get calls from them, so it’s a real partnership as far as people wanting to put a stop to impaired driving.
Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) roadside stops reached an all-time high of 228,315 last year – surpassing the previous record in 2011 of 167,766 by more than one-third – but once again nabbed comparatively few drunk drivers.
The stops led to 340 roadside breath tests, resulting in 10 charges and 66 warnings, the latter bringing an immediate three-day driving suspension.
Bond said while those numbers aren’t high, the program encourages people to plan ahead by having a designated driver or alternative transportation if they are going to be drinking, rather than risk going through a RIDE lane.
He said he believes younger people, in particular, are getting the message, as they have on wearing seatbelts, because of public education campaigns over the past two decades.
“We do catch the odd younger person, but our average age of impaired drivers is around 40,” Bond said, noting some often show multiple times the legal limit of 80 mg alcohol per 100 ml of blood.
“They’re the people that Operation Lookout is encountering because they’re driving over the line, they’re going through red lights, they’re going through the McDonald’s line and they can barely speak,” he said.
“Will we ever eradicate it? I don’t think that will ever happen because there will be people out there drinking and driving, but certainly with all of the RIDE lanes and enforcement we’re doing, we’re making people think twice about it.”