Impaired driving rates going down in city

By Ashley Wiebe
December 15, 2016 - 10:17am Updated: February 6, 2017 - 5:14pm

MEDICINE HAT, AB — Impaired driving numbers have been steadily dropping in Medicine Hat, but Medicine Hat police say the numbers are still too high.

Figures released by Statistics Canada show Edmonton comes in 7th place Canada-wide for impaired driving. Last year the provincial capital had 226 incidents  per 100,000 people.

Medicine Hat wasn’t included on that list, but according to police, the city had 258 impaired driving incidents per-capita.The number means Medicine Hat would be near the top of the list for drinking and driving occurrences in Alberta, but because the numbers are based on a per-capita structure they are somewhat skewed.

Medicine Hat, however, is showing a downward trend. In 2012, Medicine Hat Police charged nearly 297 people with drunk driving. In 2015, the number dropped to 150 charges.

“Obviously we’d like that number to be zero," said Traffic Sergeant Brent Bohrn. "But, from a police perspective, our impaired driving charges have been going down statistically over the last couple years.”

So far in 2016, there have been 103 people charged with impaired driving in Medicine Hat.

Police services across the country reported 72,039 impaired driving incidents last year. While the number is high, the national impaired driving rate actually decreased by four per cent in 2015.

The report also noted 80 per cent of people charged with impaired driving were male. And the numbers suggest those most likely to get behind the wheel after drinking were between the ages of 20 and 24.

But, it also shows the amount of impaired driving incidents in that age group is coming down.

Bohrn believes an increase in awareness and in the penalties for impaired driving have likely contributed to an overall decrease.

“If they make the wrong choice they’ll get the license suspension," he said. "There’s a high likelihood of a serious injury crash or worse, so hopefully the message is getting out there that we want to stop that.”

Medicine Hat Police are currently conducting their annual holiday checkstops. So far, they’ve stopped an estimated 6,000 vehicles, catching  one impaired driver and one driver who refused a breathalyzer.

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