The number of charges for impaired driving in the Hay River area – and the number of reports from the public about suspected drunk drivers – increased significantly in 2019 compared to the previous year.
However, Sgt. Brandon Humbke of the Hay River RCMP explained that doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in impaired driving, just that more people are getting caught.
In 2019, there were 47 impaired driving charges laid for the area covered by the Hay River RCMP Detachment, along with the RCMP’s Traffic Services, which includes Hay River, the Hay River Reserve, Enterprise and as far south as the NWT/Alberta border.
That compares to 29 impaired charges for that policing area in 2018.
Humbke said the increase could be attributed to more enforcement and more reports from the public.
“One thing that helped us to run extra checkstops (last) year is the fact that we’re fully staffed right now,” he said. “When you’re down two or three bodies, it’s a lot harder to run those types of initiatives.”
Humbke noted that, just in the town of Hay River, the RCMP conducted about 20 checkstops in 2019.
Plus, he pointed to the increasing co-operation from the public in fighting impaired driving.
“I do believe that we’re seeing an increase of reports of impaired driving from the public, as well, which is good,” he said.
The numbers just for Hay River show that there were 212 occurrences of possible impaired driving in 2019, compared to 128 in 2018. An occurrence is a suspected instance of impaired driving, many reported by members of the public, that may or may not result in a charge.
The increased impact of enforcement and reporting is demonstrated in the December numbers just for Hay River. In that month, there were six charges of impaired driving laid in the town, compared to just one charge in December of 2018.
“That’s a quite substantial increase,” said Humbke.
The sergeant noted that the RCMP ran seven checkstops in Hay River in December, part of a seasonal initiative against impaired driving called Operation Gingerbread.
“December is filled with holiday parties and other celebrations which often include alcohol,” Humbke stated in a written monthly report on December submitted to Hay River town council on Jan. 20. “Hay River Detachment and Traffic Services recognize this and as such initiated seven checkstops with 150 drivers being checked during the month.”