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Drivers stopped by WRPS will now be given an alcohol screening test

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All drivers pulled over by Waterloo Regional Police Service officers may now face an alcohol screening test.

WRPS announced they would be launching a Mandatory Alcohol Screening Pilot Project starting on July 1 in an attempt to crack down on impaired driving.

“We are piloting this project with our traffic services unit to see if this will have a positive effect on our ability to detect it and force impaired drivers,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Griffiths.

According to a WRPS news release, 939 impaired driving related charges were laid in 2023 and impaired driving was considered to be a factor in two deaths.

“What's concerning for us is that there has been an increase year over year. So we've seen increases consistently.”

WRPS officers will now ask all drivers pulled over as part of a traffic stop to provide a roadside breath sample, even if the officer does not suspect the driver has been drinking.

Some residents are giving the pilot project the green light.

“It's just an extra second out of the day and it could prevent some potential accidents as well,” one person told CTV News.

Others are a bit hesitant.

“It does seem a little invasive but I would say overall, if it keeps our streets safer than that's ok by me,” one person told CTV News.

“Honestly, I don’t think that’s right. You shouldn’t make the assumption that just because I made a mistake that I’ve automatically been drinking alcohol,” another person said.

“So there's always going to be a period of transition where our traffic officers will take some time to explain what it is they are doing,” Griffiths said. “But I would say the time it takes to do a sample is about half as long as it takes to explain it.”

Drivers who refuse could be charged with failure or refusal to comply.

The pilot program is expected to continue until the end of the year.

'Toughest measures yet'

The move from WRPS comes after the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced a similar measure in May.

OPP said they would be conducting mandatory alcohol screenings during every traffic stop in the Greater Toronto Area after impaired driving collisions and charges jumped by nearly 30 per cent compared to the previous five-year average.

“Obviously when the OPP took their steps to start that pilot in the GTA area, we took a very close look at it and have decided to do our own pilot project in the same vein,” Griffiths explained.

The project includes Waterloo Region highways that are patrolled by the OPP’s Cambridge detachment, including Highway 7/8, Highway 85 and Highway 401, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt confirmed.

The OPP called the initiative its “toughest measures yet to reduce impaired driving.”

-- With reporting from CTV's Krista Simpson.

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