P.E.I. RCMP cracking down on impaired drivers

P.E.I. RCMP are on track to make about 30 more impaired driving arrests in 2024 than they did last year. (Travis Kingdon/CBC - image credit)
P.E.I. RCMP are on track to make about 30 more impaired driving arrests in 2024 than they did last year. (Travis Kingdon/CBC - image credit)

The RCMP in Prince Edward Island say that 2024 may outpace last year for impaired driving arrests.

In the first six months of this year, officers have made 130 arrests for impaired driving. That's compared to 230 for all of 2023.

"We're certainly seeing strong numbers there," said Cpl. Gavin Moore, media relations officer for the P.E.I. RCMP.

But Moore doesn't necessarily think more Islanders are driving while impaired. Rather, it's the strategies RCMP are using to catch offenders that have become more effective.

"We do have specialists, these are officers that are selected based on their talents at finding impaired drivers," Moore said. "And with more talented officers out there looking for impaired drivers, we would expect that they would catch more."

RCMP added another officer to the provincewide traffic unit this year, bringing the team to five members. The added officer means that police vehicles are more visible in the community, which itself acts as a deterrent.

 

"We know that perceptions are important and we want anybody who may be thinking about making the poor choice of impaired driving ... to remember that they just saw a police car not too long ago and that their chances of being caught are quite high," Moore said.

Cannabis charges up

In June of this year alone, 24 people were charged with driving while impaired. Twelve of those were alcohol offences, nine were for drug impairment, one was for both drugs and alcohol, and two drivers refused testing.

Since roadside saliva-testing equipment has become available and officers have been trained on how to spot impairment by cannabis, Moore said those charges have also increased.

"The [screening] tool will indicate a certain level of impairment, and we will then make a blood demand for cannabis to get an exact measurement that can be used in court," he said.

Checkpoints during CBMF

As P.E.I.'s summer festival season kicks off with the Cavendish Beach Music Festival from July 5 to 7, RCMP are also planning increased surveillance in the surrounding areas.

That means sobriety checkpoints for those leaving the concert, and anyone who's stopped could be asked to provide a breath sample. It's the second year RCMP have done this.

Police say they will set up a mandatory traffic stop for vehicles departing CBMF on the weekend.
Police say they will set up a mandatory traffic stop for vehicles departing CBMF on the weekend.

Police will set up a sobriety checkpoint for vehicles departing CBMF this weekend. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"Every vehicle that's lawfully stopped, all drivers will be asked to provide a breath sample," Moore said. "Everybody who rolls through will be given a fresh clean straw that they will have to provide a breath sample on."

Moore said police in Canada have had the ability to conduct checkpoints like this for a few years now. The refusal to provide a sample is itself an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Moore said the RCMP are informing the public of the checkpoints in advance to further deter potential impaired drivers. And, as always, anyone who suspects an impaired driver is asked to call 911.

"The goal here isn't to catch as many impaired drivers as possible," he said. "The goal is safety."