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B.C. designated drivers get free coffee during police blitz

Police forces across B.C. are stepping up road checks in an effort to catch impaired drivers around the holiday season. Designated drivers, meanwhile, will be offered free coffee vouchers.
Police across B.C. will increase the frequency of roadside checks throughout December to deter and intercept impaired drivers. Photograph By DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Police officers are ramping up roadside checks across British Columbia this weekend as part of its annual holiday tradition of cracking down on impaired drivers.

The campaign, dubbed “the December CounterAttack,” will also reward designated drivers with coffee vouchers to McDonald’s — at least at “many of these roadchecks,” according to an Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) press release.

“Driving impaired after drinking alcohol is dangerous and a crime. Unfortunately, there are still those willing to take a chance with their own lives, the lives of their passengers and the lives of other road users. If you have consumed alcohol — stay off our roads,” said Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth in a written statement. 

“If you instead choose to put yourself and others at risk, consider yourself warned: the police are out there with stepped-up enforcement."

On average, 64 people in B.C. are killed every year in crashes where impaired driving played a factor. That includes 17 in the Lower Mainland, 11 on Vancouver Island, 25 in the Southern Interior and 13 in the province’s North Central region. Altogether, roughly 23 per cent of deadly crashes in the province are related to impaired driving.

More than half of accidents involving an impaired driver occur over the weekend, and more than a third happen between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. Of all the impaired drivers involved in a crash, an average of 69 per cent are male. 

In response, B.C. has developed “the toughest drinking and driving laws in Canada,” according to ICBC. Impaired drivers could face driving suspensions stretching from 24 hours to 90 days; fines between $600 and $4,060; and jail time. 

Some caught driving impaired could have their vehicle impounded, be forced to attend mandatory rehabilitation, and may even be required to install an interlock device connected to their vehicle’s ignition system. Impaired drivers could also be found personally at fault for all the costs associated with an accident.

A free ride home in these B.C. communities

Several communities across B.C. have adopted an alternative: Operation Red Nose. Anyone needing a ride can contact the group of volunteers through the project's website or app, available for both iPhone and Android​ devices. 

“A team of three Operation Red Nose volunteers will help you get home safely: one drives your vehicle, a second navigates and a third volunteer follows in an escort vehicle to pick up the two volunteers once they drop you off,” notes ICBC, which insures the annual program.

This year, Operation Red Nose will operate Fridays and Saturdays in the following communities: 

  • Chilliwack, Prince George, Kamloops, Williams Lake, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 17;
  • Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Belcarra and Anmore, from Dec. 2 to 17.

In Kamloops, volunteers will be available Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from Dec. 1 to 31. No service will be available on Dec. 24.

All of the above communities will have Operation Red Nose volunteers available on Dec. 31 for New Year's Eve. 

Anyone looking to volunteer can do so through Operation Red Nose’s national website.