Policeman on the job using a radar at a speed trap

Hergott: Road safety and the holidays

Thank you, Santa Trudeau, for the road safety Christmas gift. Police can finally do the work we’ve been asking them to do: pulling those over the legal alcohol limit off the road.

Though it’s the hard working elves we should probably thank.

Particularly those who fought to maintain the controversial and dramatic change that means so much for road safety.

I am a bit of a news junky, with a particular interest in road safety. I’m embarrassed to say that I had not clued in to the change until seeing a news report on Dec. 11, of its imminent implementation on Dec. 18.

The law had been passed in June, along with cannabis legalization.

I posted the news report on Facebook with the comment: “This is beyond incredible. How could it have taken this long!? Nice!!!!!”

My enthusiasm wasn’t widely shared. Responding comments included: “Just burn the Charter” and “R.I.P. freedom, hello police state.”

Another: “This is so against our Charter of Rights it’s pathetic. One step closer to losing more of our rights. Here comes the Nazi regime.”

I promised to address those concerns in my Christmas column.

Bill C-46 includes a wide swath of changes. The one I am excited about pertains to when police can make a roadside breath demand.

In hindsight, we had been expecting police to enforce our impaired driving laws while blindfolded.

Before Dec. 18, when conducting a CounterAttack roadblock, police were handcuffed from making a roadside breath demand unless they had reasonable grounds to suspect that you had alcohol in your body.

We expected them to conduct a roadside investigation based on the smell of your breath, what you chose to disclose about your alcohol consumption and gross indicators of intoxication (fumbling with your licence and registration, slurring words, glassy eyes, etc.).

British Columbia law prohibits driving with a blood alcohol level over 0.05 per cent. An adult man can reach that level with as little as two alcoholic drinks in one hour.

Who slurs their words, has glassy eyes or smells of alcohol after two drinks?

Chronic alcoholics can hide their use from co-workers, friends and even spouses. What ridiculous expectations we had of our police.

One news report, noted: “Research also shows that up to 50 per cent of drivers who would blow over the legal limit aren’t caught during roadside check stops.”

No kidding Sherlock. Though I’d like to see the research because I would have expected a much wider hole in the net.

That hole has been sewn up. Police blindfolds have been removed. They are finally able to investigate drivers for exceeding legal blood alcohol levels in an effective way, using a roadside screening device.

No more pussy-footing around, blindfolded. They can require every driver to blow.

Section 8 says, “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”

Is a breath screening during an otherwise lawful roadside stop an “unreasonable search or seizure,” marching down a Nazi path towards a police state?

I am already at 500 words, which is the rule of thumb my editors give me. I apologize, but I must once again (second week in a row) make this one “to be continued.”

Wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday season and New Year.

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