Waterloo Regional Police handed out dozens more 12-hour suspensions during holiday RIDE checks this year despite stopping fewer vehicles.
Using a new strategy that focused less on roadblocks and more on random stops, police checked 5,026 vehicles between Nov. 28 and Jan. 3 and handed out 55 12-hour suspensions. That’s a significant increase over last year, when 6,318 vehicles were checked and 13 suspensions issued.
“It’s difficult to draw any real solid conclusions from a small sampling like this, but any time the numbers go up, we’re more concerned than when they go down,” said police spokesperson Olaf Heinzel.
However, he said police aren’t sounding the alarm just yet; the numbers don’t necessarily mean more people are driving impaired.
“We cannot generalize from this really limited number, toward the general population. We know the vast majority of people are not drinking and driving, and this is a small percentage of the total. … Some of it is the luck of the draw. It really just depends who comes through the line that particular night.”
Using teams of cruisers, often near bars and restaurants, police were able to spend more time with each vehicle than at a roadblock, where the emphasis is on keeping traffic flowing.
The mobile RIDE stops also resulted in increased charges for Highway Traffic Act violations – 113 this year, compared to 25 in 2007. Another nine drivers were charged with having a blood-alcohol content over 80 mg, and two were given impaired charges.
“The increased suspensions are an anomaly given the long-term trend has been toward fewer drinking and driving incidents,” Heinzel said. “Having said that, we always have to remain vigilant in terms of our enforcement and our messaging to the community.”