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Merritt RCMP and Traffic Services charged 10 people for impaired driving in December, up from a combined four in December 2011.
They also issued eight 24-hour driver’s licence suspensions due to drivers impaired by alcohol, but not enough to put them over the legal limit.
The charges came as part of the RCMP’s CounterAttack check stop program. This year, Merritt RCMP performed random checks at various stops throughout town.
“It’s disappointing when you consider the time of season and the amount of advertising and effort that goes into the CounterAttack program, and you’re still getting people driving drunk,” Merritt Traffic Services Cpl. Doug Hardy said.
One of those advertising campaigns came from Merritt’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter, which partnered with the Community Policing Office, the local BCLC and School District 58 to have students decorate almost 1,000 BCLC bags with anti-impaired driving messages.
About 900 of the bags were decorated by local elementary school students and distributed on Christmas Eve.
“Usually 1,000 bags are gone within the first couple hours of opening on Christmas Eve,” Merritt MADD community leader Robyn Grebliunas said.
“It’s some messaging from children to adults about drinking and driving. Children do the project, and they go home and they talk about it. It’s bringing the message home.”
CPO co-ordinator Ryan Reid picked up the bags from the elementary schools and delivered them to the liquor store.
“A number of the kids wrote the numbers for cabs on the bags which I
thought was clever,” he said. “One [theme] that was common was that people have a choice, so make a good choice. There were certainly some funny ones. They were all really well done.”
Grebliunas said MADD Merritt has focused on children and youth with its messaging, and the brown bag campaign is one of those programs.
“While there’s so much we can do at all ages, of course, bringing the messaging home and into houses through children is probably the best effort we can make,” she said. “Young children are great at making change.”
The group also brings a MADD presentation into Merritt Secondary School to further their messaging against drinking and driving.
“A year ago I had a parent call after the presentation in the high school and say that it really profoundly affected their teenager, and lots of changes had gone on,” she said. “The presentations are hard to watch but they’re really important.”
Grebliunas said the group is always looking for more volunteers so it can run more programs, and anybody interested in volunteering can call her at 250-315-5851.
Grebliunas added that the message is not anti-drinking, but against driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Although the numbers in Merritt are up from last year, RCMP across the province apprehended fewer drivers for impaired driving over the holiday season than last year, according to a press release from Thursday. Police laid 961 impaired driving-related charges this season compared to 1,434 over last season, including 135 drug-related 24-hour licence suspensions and 34 criminal code impaired driving charges.
More than 1,400 people were ticketed for using an electronic device while driving, more than 1,300 for failing to wear seat belts, and over 200 more drivers were caught speeding more than 40 km per hour over the posted limit during the CounterAttack run.
This year marked the 35th anniversary of the CounterAttack program, which uses mandatory, staffed check stops throughout the province.
The campaign ran from Dec. 2, 2012 to Jan. 2, 2013.