Checking motorists

Thunder Bay Police Service, OPP and Anishinabek Police Service officers conduct a RIDE program on Balmoral Street on Friday afternoon.

The number of impaired driving charges laid so far this year by the Thunder Bay Police Service is looking to outpace 2020’s record-breaking numbers.

In 2019, city police laid 204 impaired driving charges. Last year, 299 charges were laid.

As of Friday afternoon, 220 impaired driving charges had already been laid in 2021.

“It’s very upsetting to us,” said Sal Carchidi, acting sergeant with the city police service’s traffic unit. “We hoped (2020) was an anomaly.”

On Friday, city police were joined by OPP and Anishinabek Police Service officers to kick off the Festive RIDE program season on Balmoral Street near Norah Crescent.

The campaign aims to educate the public against driving impaired by either drug or alcohol while also taking impaired drivers off the road.

Carchidi said officers will be conducting RIDE checkpoints throughout the city at all times of the day during the campaign.

“It’s not uncommon for us to have daytime impaired drivers,” he said.

OPP Sgt. Mike Golding said there are people who consume alcohol at all times of the day.

“You’d be surprised at some of the vehicle stops we have early in the morning,” he said, noting OPP officers have stopped transport drivers who have been drinking all night before heading back on the road in the morning.

The OPP hasn’t seen a significant increase in impaired driving charges in 2021 but Golding said 29 people died in OPP-patrolled areas this year and the OPP investigated 1,900 collisions for impaired driving throughout the province.

“We have to do something to combat this,” said Golding.

With the holiday season, people will be out celebrating and Golding said people should plan ahead for a ride home before heading out to have drinks.