Five members of the Sunshine Coast RCMP were named to Alexa’s Team after they combined to take 106 impaired drivers and their vehicles off the road in 2011.
The recognized officers were constables Mark Wiebe, Jen Balfour, Kevin Shepherd and Todd Bozak and Cpl. Colby Attlesey.
They joined the 355 members of the 2011 Alexa’s Team, which removed some 12,900 drunk drivers from B.C.’s roads.
The team gets its name from Alexa Middelaer, who was only four when she was killed by a drunk driver in 2008 in Langley while standing on the side of a road with her aunt, feeding a horse.
Last year the provincial government reported that tougher roadside penalties had led to a 40 per cent drop in deaths related to drinking and driving.
“You make the choice to get behind the wheel, and then the outcome of that is you can take someone’s life. You made the choice,” said Balfour. “It’s one of the most senseless crimes out there.”
She said she was inspired by the work of Alexa’s family to impel tougher legislation, especially when those laws helped reduce deaths in the province by 45.
For Shepherd, the motivation has come from a moment four years ago, when he said he nearly lost his life because of one person’s choice to get behind the wheel while drunk.
“Working my last post, an impaired driver ran a red light and T-boned me doing well over 100km/h,” he said.
Even though he escaped by “a couple inches” from being killed instantly, Shepherd said it took him two years to recover from the incident.
“From that point on, once I was back and able to work on my own again, number one was impaired drivers,” he said.
Bozak said he was also involved in a collision involving a drunk driver, in 1995, when he was T-boned in a police car while working as an auxiliary constable in Gibsons. He sustained injuries in that crash that kept him off work for six months.
For Attlesey, the motivation to remove impaired drivers from the road has stemmed from an event dating back to his 19th birthday, when his sister survived a collision with a drunk driver in front of a bar.
He also credited the encouraging drop in deaths to the province’s stricter laws and the immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) process.
“The IRP program, I think, was more successful than the traditional method because it’s less labour intensive. It’s putting officers back on the road a lot quicker,” he said. According to Attlesey, the IRP program can save an officer more than two hours of his or her time.
The provincial government announced May 3 that it would be introducing changes to strengthen the IRP process, after the courts previously expressed concern that drivers lacked “a way to meaningfully challenge the roadside breath-test results.”