No surprise DUI charges are rising

January 19, 2017   ·   0 Comments

Recent figures released in York Region showed an increase in the number of drivers being charged for various alcohol-related offences over the past year.

After the figures were released there was outrage among the public. How can this be? Why are so many people being so irresponsible? Don’t they know better? Throw them all in jail for 10 years!

Many people demanded that first-time offenders receive some jail time.

York Region was the site of the crash that killed four members of the same family and resulted in a young man going off to prison and basically ruining his life. It was a tragedy that gained national attention, so residents in York Region are pretty sensitive to hearing about drunk driving in their region.

Under the Criminal Code you can be charged for driving with more than an .08/100 mL alcohol blood level – or drunk driving to use the vernacular.  And under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act you can have your driver’s licence suspended for three days for blowing between .05 and .08 – the ‘warning’ range.

And if you’re under 21, the limit in Ontario is zero.

Judging from the revenues and the line-ups at the Beer Store and the LCB0 we are not exactly a nation of teetotallers.

Drinking and driving, per se, is not against the law. Drinking to a point where your blood-alcohol level exceeds the state-mandated limit and then driving is against the law.

That’s where it gets tricky.

Most people who drive after drinking probably consider themselves ‘okay to drive’, meaning they don’t feel intoxicated. And for the most part that is probably true.

Marco Musso, the 29-year-old man who caused the York Region crash, said he “did not perceive himself as being drunk.”

It didn’t matter how he felt – he blew three times the legal limit.

Go to any wedding, social function, sports activity, or charity ball where alcohol is served and just watch how many people of all ages quaff a few then drive home 30 minutes later.

I’ve been to a few events where I’m sure a roadside check would end up with just about everyone behind bars – and yet no one appeared even mildly intoxicated. The breathalyzer, however, would say differently.

I have personally witnessed two cases of what could be described as extreme drunk driving.

One time when I was about 19 and coming home from my own night out, I was following a middle-aged, businessman-type guy wearing a grey suit who actually missed his turn by about 20 feet and drove into a tree. He made it home but I’m pretty sure he would have some explaining to do in the morning as to why the family car had a tree-shaped dent in the hood.

Another time, just a couple of years ago, I was following a pickup truck on Highway 9, driven by a young man who clearly shouldn’t have been on the road.

I didn’t have a cell phone with me or I would have dialed 911, as this guy could barely keep his truck on the road. He finally got away when he blew a red light ahead of me.

The reason the instances of people charged with driving while intoxicated has increased doesn’t necessarily mean people have become more irresponsible. More likely, the reason is that police in many areas are becoming more vigilant when it comes to roadside checks and enforcement.

Several times each year the local OPP set up a RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) stop at the end of my street in an area where cars crest a small hill on the road and suddenly you’ve got flashing red lights and several police officers on the street and nowhere to turn. The officers get uncomfortably close when they lean in to ask how it’s going. There’s a little sniff test, a well-mannered question about whether you have been drinking, and if all clear, you’re on your way in 10 seconds – clean, quick, and no harm done.

But if you’re the man or woman who just had a couple of drinks at dinner with your friends, that could spell trouble, whether you feel intoxicated or not.

People shouldn’t be surprised that the number of DUI (“driving under the influence” of alcohol) charges have gone up. There aren’t necessarily more people drinking and driving, there’s just more people being caught.

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