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Record number of impaired drivers arrested and charged in Thunder Bay in 2019

Jan 05, 2020 06:35AM ● By Editor
Thunder Bay Police said they captured a record number of alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers in the city, with the number of drug-impaired drivers "skyrocketing." Photo: CBC

From CBC News · Thunder Bay - January 4, 2020

The Thunder Bay police service says 2019 saw a major increase in the number of impaired drivers arrested and charged.

Police said a record 204 impaired drivers were arrested and charged by Thunder Bay Police last year, and a media release from city police shows steadily rising numbers over the past five years. And the worst month for impaired driving in 2019 was December, with 36 individuals caught - a record high for the city of Thunder Bay. According to police, a typical month sees between 15 to 20 people arrested for impaired driving.

While the overall number of impaired drivers has increased, so has the proportion of drivers whose impairment has been attributed to drug use. City police found that almost one-quarter of all arrested individuals were impaired by drug(s).

Constable Mark Cattani, with the traffic unit, told CBC that "if anything, the numbers should be going down with the changes [in enforcement powers] that have come to light, but we're seeing quite the opposite. Of that, we're seeing that drug-impaired driving is skyrocketing."

While most alcohol-impaired charges occurred around 2 a.m. - when many bars close for the night - drug-impaired driving arrests have come at all times of the day.

"With drug-impaired driving, it doesn't follow that same pattern [as alcohol-impaired driving]. It's kind of all over the place, which makes it especially challenging to try to target it," Cattani added.

One statistic highlighted by police is that the number of impaired drivers arrested after a motor vehicle collision had already taken place has decreased to only 26 per cent in 2019, down from 41 per cent in 2018.

Police said this decrease is significant because "alcohol- or drug-related collisions often result in loss of life or serious injury, damage to property, and increased costs borne by society."

The police service credits investments in standardized field sobriety testing training for new officers, three new drug-testing devices that allows officers to test the presence of cannabis or cocaine in an individual's system, and the hiring of two new drug recognition experts, as being critical to improving their capacity to detect, arrest and charge impaired drivers.

In terms of the demographics of captured impaired drivers, not much has changed from 2018 to 2019.

The average age of an impaired driver is in the mid-30s, with the youngest driver arrested being in their late teens and the oldest driver in their late-70s.

Almost two-thirds of impaired drivers are male, although 2019 saw an increase in the proportion of female impaired drivers, up to 36 per cent from 28 per cent in 2018.

The person with the highest recorded blood alcohol concentration level was five times over the legal limit, at 399 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood.

To read the original article and see related reporting, follow this link to the CBC Thunder Bay website.

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