Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Holiday haul of drunks continues

More impaired drivers nabbed by program

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Fear of a police crackdown hasn't stopped some drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel, as two dozen motorists have been charged with impaired driving in December.

Winnipeg police launched their annual festive season checkstop program earlier this month to curb the number of drunk-driving offences. Impaired driving is the No. 1 criminal cause of death in Canada and 57 people were charged with impaired driving following increased police enforcement in 2011.

On Wednesday, police announced seven motorists were charged for driving while impaired or refusing a breathalyzer in the last week, and an additional five motorists had their licence suspended for 24 hours. So far this season, Winnipeg police have stopped 3,218 vehicles and charged 24 people with impaired driving or refusing a breathalyzer.

"This type of behaviour is not acceptable," Winnipeg police Const. Eric Hofley said. "People make a poor decision to drink and drive and there are tragic consequences."

On Sunday, a cyclist was struck and killed by an alleged impaired driver. The man was on a bike travelling west near Regent Avenue West and Brewster Street shortly after 4 a.m. when he was struck by a vehicle. He was transported to hospital in critical condition but later died from his injuries.

Jesse Benjamin Coutu, 32, has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene of an accident.

Since last weekend's fatal collision, Hofley said police have continued to arrest drivers who are over the legal limit on city streets.

Police data from the 2011 festive checkstop program showed men between the ages of 26 and 40 made up the bulk of individuals charged with impaired-driving-related offences. Of the 52 impaired-related charges, 26- to 40-year-olds were responsible for 53 per cent of offences.

Operation Red Nose Winnipeg coordinator Sharra Hinton said most of the calls she fields are from people who want to plan a safe ride home ahead of time. Hinton said the demand for the volunteer service has increased by 20 to 25 rides a night this year, and most of the individuals who request a lift are in their early 20s.

While more people are making smarter choices, Hinton said there are still people who don't consider how they're going to get home.

"I think people make bad decisions and they get caught," she said.

Winnipeg police stopped 1,101 vehicles in the third week of their festive season checkstop program, and tested 36 drivers with approved screening devices. In addition to impaired-driving charges, three drivers were found to be driving with suspended licences, and police issued 15 other tickets for things such as not wearing a seatbelt.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

'TIS THE SEASON FOR CHECKSTOP STATS

2012 (to date)

-- Vehicles stopped: 3,218

-- Total impaired/ refused breath sample: 24

2011

-- Vehicles stopped: 1,901

-- Total impaired/ refused breath sample: 57

Average age of impaired driver: 33

2010

-- Vehicles stopped: 2,471

-- Total impaired/ refused breath sample: 98

-- source: Winnipeg Police Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2012 A7

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