During September the Niagara Regional Police Department implemented a RIDE Check program during the annual Grape & Wine Festival, which drew thousands to the Niagara region. During the weekend, no arrests were made in connection to the RIDE check. The NRPD implemented this program through the busy streets of downtown St. Catharines, stopping an estimated 350 vehicles on Saturday night. Police did issue a three-day suspension of a driving license to one driver, and also fined several other individuals for traffic infractions.
This Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) program came several weeks after another major RIDE check stop, which took place in the Region earlier in September. In this operation, both the Niagara Regional Police Department (NRPD) and the Ontario Provincial Police stopped an estimated 700 cars during their patrols on a Saturday evening.
The RIDE program originated out of Etobicoke, Ontario, but is now in use across the province. In the program, police set up a roadside stop on busy streets or on/off-ramps to highways. Every vehicle that passes through the ‘checkpoint’ is stopped and asked standard questions by the officer. The program is usually set up on major holidays and events, such as New Years, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, after a major concert, or in this case, a festival focused on wine culture. When suspecting someone of being intoxicated, the police can ask the driver to leave their vehicle and conduct a breathalyzer test to determine their blood alcohol content. If an individual is over the legal limit, police can issue a suspension or take the person into custody depending on the breathalyzer results.
In Canada, impaired driving has gone down nationally since 2015, but drug-impaired driving has doubled since 2009. Statistics Canada reveals that Ontario has one of the lowest cases of driving while intoxicated in the country, and that of the individuals arrested for impaired driving, one in six are “repeat offenders”, meaning they have been charged with the crime before. 34 per cent of deaths in car accidents involve alcohol and approximately four people are killed each day by impaired driving, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada.
Under Premier Kathleen Wynne, the provincial government will be introducing new laws that will have ‘zero tolerance’ for impaired driving. This new legislation will roughly coincide with the legalization of cannabis next summer. The Premier has stated that the zero tolerance policies will be in effect for drivers under the age of 21, new drivers and all commercial drivers.
When reached for comment, Sergeant Joshua Klop of the NRPD stated that the officers conducting the RIDE program were happy to see that many individuals who came out to the Festival made the smart decision not to drink and drive and instead used other modes of transportation. Klop commented that it was a positive for the community that no arrests were made as part of the RIDE program.