Port Alberni RCMP Const. Brian Kenny says he will never forget a particular accident scene he responded to last year. A child had been hit and seriously injured by a suspected drunk driver, and the scene was chaos. It drives him to find drunk drivers and get them off the road before they can hurt someone.
RCMP Const. Rob Jackson has only to think of his grandson to find his motivation. His grandson is the same age that Delta’s Alexa Middelaer was when she was killed by a drunk driver in 2008. Since then, the Middelaer family has lent Alexa’s name and story to a province-wide police campaign targeting impaired drivers.
The two Port Alberni officers are part of a team of more than 40 from Vancouver Island added at the end of April to Alexa’s Team, named for the Ladner tot who was killed by that drunk driver 10 years ago. Alexa’s Team members now number 2,400 and include officers from all regions of British Columbia.
“Before I was a member (RCMP) I remember Alexa Middelaer from when she was hit,” Jackson said. “I remember it on the news and following the trial in the years afterward. It’s always stuck with me.”
Police officers who remove a minimum of 12 drivers affected by alcohol or drugs from the road through a Criminal Code investigation or a 90-day immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) earn nominations to Alexa’s team. Jackson’s and Kenny’s numbers have already surpassed 13 apiece for 2018, meaning they have already earned their nominations for next year’s team.
This is Jackson’s second time on Alexa’s Team: last year he was also named to the team while in Sidney/ North Saanich (he had 22 impaired drivers on his list). He said the problem of impaired driving is the same everywhere.
“There’s no secret recipe to finding impaired drivers,” he said. “They’re out there. You would think there is a stereotype but there isn’t. They’re young and old, male and female, drive all types of vehicles.”
Jackson, who was born and raised in Port Alberni, said he pulls over a lot of cars, and the number of drivers who say they have been drinking “is disappointing.
“Is it worth it? A cab ride in Port Alberni to wherever you’re going is way cheaper than what an impaired charge costs.”
Kenny said he has pulled over some drivers while he’s parked on the side of the road completing paperwork from other calls. For others, members of the public have called about suspected impaired drivers and the RCMP were able to establish a pattern from multiple calls and find them.
“It’s hard to believe. There are so many options out there: we have a liquor store that delivers, a dozen cabs on the road, buses,” Kenny said.
“There are so many other options than driving drunk on the road. Here you’re in town, the taxis run 24 hours. Maybe you’ll get home safe tonight, but the next night?
“You might get away with it this time, but it will catch up to you sometime.”
(The same afternoon we interviewed Const. Kenny for this story, he got his 12th driver. “The person was doing a liquor run, which was one block from their residence,” media liaison officer Cpl. Amelia Hayden said.)
While May is high-risk driving month in B.C. and impaired driving campaigns are conducted in July and December every year, RCMP officers are always on the lookout.
“We’re always looking for impaired drivers,” Hayden said. “We’re always working hard to keep our roads safe.”
Jackson has a simple message for people who drive drunk—no matter if it’s a block or more. “If you drink and drive, we will catch you.”