I have a friend who picks bottles in and around High Prairie. Because he is retired, his primary reason for doing so is to escape boredom.
One day, I asked him how many bottles he picks are alcoholic versus non-alcoholic related. Graciously, he agreed to count each bottle collected for two weeks. We decided to group them into two groups with alcoholic being beer cans and coolers. The second group is bottled water, Gatorade, etc.
The numbers are startling and should be cause for concern.
Of 3,257 bottles and cans picked over a 15-day sample period an astounding 2,385 or 73.23 per cent were alcohol related.
That is a lot of people drinking and driving. Realizing, of course, that some of the cans tossed into the ditches are from passengers.
High Prairie RCMP are always on the lookout for impaired drivers but it appears many aren’t getting the message. We can assume not everyone who drinks and drives is drunk but at best we can agree it is a terrible combination.
“High Prairie RCMP will continue to be on the lookout for high-risk drivers, such as impaired drivers, on our roadways,” says High Prairie RCMP S/Sgt. Warren Wright.
“However, the public are an integral part of keeping our roadways safe. The High Prairie RCMP encourage members of the public to call the RCMP when they see concerning driving behaviour, or an impaired driver on our roadways,” Wright adds.
He also says there are other infractions than impaireds to consider.
“. . .such as consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle, wherein the driver may not be the person consuming alcohol. The local RCMP is also aware of these types of offences and have issued violations where appropriate.”
And we haven’t even brought up the far less serious crime of littering.
In another disturbing trend, Mothers Against Drunk Driving CEO Andrew Murie says the following.
“We also know during the pandemic consumption rates for alcohol and cannabis are up by 25 per cent which has led to many police agencies reporting increase rates of impaired driving,” says Murie.
“I would assume most people, because of the pandemic, are driving around drinking for something to do,” he adds.
Given the high percentage of beer cans and coolers found in local ditches, Murie offers the following thought.
“We know most impaired driving crashes happen on rural two-lane roads and there is not a lot of police enforcing those roads,” he says.
What percentage of drivers are drunk who are tossing their cans away is a question no one can answer.
“I think it is safe to assume a chunk of it is impaired driving by the driver and passengers,” says Murie.
“I would hope people in your community would separate their consumption from driving and anyone who sees an impaired driving should call 911 and report them to police,” he concludes.
Wright adds there are more sets of eyes on the road than police.
“The High Prairie detachment is also served by the Alberta RCMP Traffic Services who conduct traffic operations in our area from time to time in response to traffic safety concerns,” he says.
Reason to be alarmed?
Following is the number of bottles/cans picked beside roadways and in ditches from April 13 to May 5. Following is a breakdown between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Date Alcholic Non-Alcoholic Total
April 13 127 23 150
April 14 130 27 157
April 15 203 89 292
April 16 270 75 345
April 17 201 33 234
April 19 144 32 176
April 20 149 81 230
April 21 192 125 317
April 23 93 68 161
April 24 276 150 426
April 25 130 41 171
April 30 191 36 227
May 2 152 40 192
May 3 40 15 55
May 5 87 37 124
TOTALS 2385 872 3257
PERC. 73.23% 26.77% 100%