(photo supplied by Perth County OPP)(photo supplied by Perth County OPP)

OPP to ramp up enforcement to combat "alarming" rise in impaired driving

The OPP are calling for enhanced impaired driving enforcement across the province following the release of new stats showing that the issue is getting worse.

Sergeant Kerry Schmidt with the OPP Highway Safety Division says the numbers over the last several years are very alarming.

"We've seen about a 30 percent increase in both impaired driving occurrences, impaired driving charges and also impaired driving collisions. This is significant increases year-over-year. 385 people have died in the last six years and we've seen this increase again, year-over-year and climbing," Sergeant Schmidt stated.

According to the OPP, 2023 marked a 31 per cent increase when compared to the numbers during the previous five years. Impaired driving charges are also up 33 per cent over the same six-year period from 2018 through 2023. As a result, the OPP will be ramping up enforcement.

"Ride checks happen every single day of the year, day and night, all across the province. So we have tools like that and the Mandatory Alcohol Screening, which you can expect as a driver any time you're stopped by anyone from the OPP, that you may be asked to be asked a sample of your breath, even if you have not been drinking," explained Sergeant Schmidt.

Part of the OPP's enforcement, as mentioned by Sergeant Schmidt, will be utilizing the MAS law, or Mandatory Alcohol Screening, even more. Sergeant Schmidt says the OPP wants everyone to start being more responsible when it comes to impairment and being behind the wheel and enforcing the MAS law will be a big part of that.

"We just wanna have a consistent approach and a robust campaign of enforcement and patrols to ensure people that are out on the roads driving their vehicles are not impaired. Obviously, even if you had one drink, and you may not think you're impaired, if you're a novice driver, young, or a commercial driver, it's zero tolerance. You can not have alcohol or drugs in your system when operating your machinery, based on your drivers license and age," Sergeant Schmidt shared.

Sergeant Schmidt says under the MAS law, you are required to provide a breath sample, and failing to do so is an offence.

"If you are given a lawful demand by an officer when they've stopped you for any traffic stop or any lawful violation or investigation, you are required to provide a sample of your breath. Failure to do so is the same as failing the road side breath test, and so you'll be charged with refused and that's a criminal offence. So it is important that we have people understanding their responsibilities and obligations, and it's important to remember that driving is a privilege, and one that we will take away from an individual if we are forced to," said Sergeant Schmidt.

Despite some who may think the MAS law is "unfair", Sergeant Schmidt says because of the seriousness of impaired driving and the sharp uptick in impaired-related incidents, the law is necessary and could save lives.

"We're gonna be doing this and you can expect an officer who stops you to ask for a roadside screen test, even if the stop may have been for something completely unrelated. You're speeding, you're distracted, you're not wearing a seatbelt, or any other violation, you run a stop sign. You may be asked to provide a mandatory breath sample, and you are required to do so, in addition to whatever other reason the officer may have stopped you for," Sergeant Schmidt concluded.

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