Prince Rupert motorists may be pulled over unexpectedly this holiday season, but depending on their activity, a sweet or sour surprise may be given.
The RCMP is conducting spontaneous “candy cane checks” (roadside stops) throughout the city in their seasonal effort to dissuade the public from driving under the influence. Those found sober and clean will be handed candy canes.
“We do put emphasis during the holidays. We know people have more parties, more gatherings and we need to make sure people stay sober on the road,” Const. Gabriel Gravel, RCMP media relations officer, said.
The roadside checks are random and do not have a strict start or end date.
The time of day in which they are conducted can be morning, noon or night.
However, they are largely conducted during the evening when catching impaired drivers is more likely.
As part of the larger Check Stop program, which runs throughout the year, officers have the ability at any point to conduct a roadblock to check for motor-vehicle offences.
“It’s a pretty standard procedure across Canada, all police services will do it. If you’re sober and you’re driving in good standing, you have nothing to worry about,” Gravel said.
Should an officer suspect a motorist is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may ask the individual to do a test.
At this point, an officer’s instructions are not optional, he said.
“When you’re pulled over, when you go through a check stop, legally speaking, you’re being detained by a police officer, and you have to comply with their direction,” Gravel said.
The refusal to carry out a test sought by an officer carries the same penalty as failing the test. The constable said it also has the equivalent impact on your driving record.
The Candy Cane checks are typically held on a roadway for 30 to 60 minutes with police asking some drivers, chosen at random, to pull over and partake in an approved screening device (ASD), commonly known as a breathalyzer test.
If drugs are suspected a standardized field sobriety test (SFST) is requested. The SFST is similar to the test seen in movies where police instruct someone suspected to be under the influence to walk down a straight line, Gravel said.
After two years at the Prince Rupert detachment, Gravel is surprised by the number of impaired drivers in town and said it is a weekly occurrence the police encounter.
The RCMP encourages the public to find other means of transport, whether by a taxi or a designated driver and the public is encouraged not to hesitate to report suspected impaired drivers, even if they are friend or family, Gravel said.
“You might be saving them or saving someone else’s life,” he said.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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