Alexa’s Bus was in 100 Mile House recently with North District RCMP officers whose work revolves around reducing impaired driving.
The team is named for four-year-old Alexa Middelaer who was struck and killed by an alcohol-impaired driver while standing at a rural roadside in Delta feeding horses with her aunt in 2008.
On Dec. 9, Alexa’s Bus was in the area with RCMP Const. Jeff McMichael, who also serves with Cariboo-Chilcotin Traffic Services, and Const. Brian Davies, with the Interior Road Safety Unit based in Prince George.
They are travelling around the North District in Alexa’s Bus for six to eight weeks, highlighting the penalties, as well as the tragedies that occur from impaired driving, McMichael says.
However, he explains the tools they have onboard with them in the bus – a large box van – to test for blood alcohol levels include intoximeter equipment typically available only at detachments offices.
The bus is also set up inside for conducting various physical impairment tests, such as “walking the line,” he adds.
McMichael says they also carry a message for rural residents who may mistakenly believe these tests are out of reach in rural RCMP detachments too far away for blood-alcohol levels to remain over limits, or for courts to uphold charges with the defense pointing to a time lapse in testing.
“It’s a great educational tool, but also a work tool, too.”
They were also educating students at Horse Lake Elementary School on the dangers of impaired driving, and were given tours of Alexa’s Bus.
Later that day, the team conducted roadside Counter Attack checks on Horse Lake Road at Forest Ridge Road with this special bus just after sunset.
When a person has been drinking, they typically “think they are pretty clever” in their ability to hide the fact from police, McMichael explains.
The RCMP constable says this is partly why taking the time to visit schools with educational aspects of not only the modern tools and skilled officers being available for detecting impaired drivers, but also the stiff penalties, in particular, is of great value to children and youth.
The importance of this understanding is of more impact in getting through to youth, especially new drivers at ages 16-17 who, too, often think they “know everything” so they won’t crash, kill someone or get caught, he adds.
“It’s going to happen – and it’s not a slap on the wrist.”
However, McMichael notes it’s not just youth who frequently need reminders about these impacts.
Alexa’s Bus also goes to remote work sites for big resources projects, such as mines, dams or mills, when RCMP members are made aware of increased incidences of impaired driving by the staff, whether drinking or drugs, he explains.
Since 2008, Alexa’s Team members has grown from 26 to 1,885, including officers from all regions of the province who have processed more than 71,300 impaired-driving sanctions for alcohol- and drug-related driving offences.