We don’t hear much news from ‘The Gentle Island’. What do they do over there when they’re not picking potatoes off trees or erecting temples for Anne of Green Gables? Apparently, they drink and drive. In light of PEI’s new “special licence plates for drunk drivers” program, we took a look at some of the stats to see just how dangerous the red dirt roads have gotten, and whether a licence plate will have any effect.
As far as drinking rates go, PEI is pretty average. However, they’re the second-most likely province to get behind the wheel after their hearty island kitchen party. The impaired driving rate on the Island is twice the national average.
When compared to only the Atlantic provinces, PEI is flying high. If they ain’t stormstayed, they’re determined to hop in the truck/tractor/snowmobile and get back onto the red dirt roads.
When it comes to discipline for PEI’s rampant serial drunk drivers, things get weird. Impaired driving takes up a whopping 1/4 of all adult court cases in PEI. It’s about the most trouble you can get into on an Atlantic island with 50 people, some potatoes, and a redheaded orphan.
So, you want to stir things up and look like a badass jailbird for your friends? Grab some home-brewed ‘shine, steal the keys to your dad’s truck, and take a spin down University Avenue.
Over 90% of impaired drivers on the Island are taken into custody. It’s the classic end to a good night!
“From aways”, take warn. Drunk driving is a sure-fire way to get yourself off the red-sand beaches of Cavendish and into the barracks of Sleepy Hollow (non-Islander translation: jail).
With the stakes so high, why aren’t people dissuaded from impaired driving? Why are Islanders still topping drunk driving stats? Why are we seeing multiple repeat offenders? Surely, drunk driving and going to jail isn’t that much of a rush.
Maybe it’s because we’re being soft and letting them out before they’ve learned their lesson. The median sentence is only 5 days, the shortest (by far) in Canada. We get it; if you put the entire island behind bars, there’s no one to pick potatoes or tap dance for tourists. However, you really have to question whether 5 days is enough to stop people from impaired driving again (hint: it’s not).
DUI laws in PEI are low-impact. Between a BAC of 0.05 and 0.08, you get away with only a 24h licence suspension on your first offence. Above 0.08, you face a minimum 3-day jail sentence along with a fine, 1-year suspension, Driver Rehab, and ignition interlock. With so many repeat offenders, you have to question the disciplinary action.
Where do the new special licence plates fit into this? The plates are designated for third-time offenders, letting them get out of the ignition interlock program sooner. A Charlottetown police chief says they’ll help “keep these chronic offenders off our roadways and increase safety for everyone”. PEI, with such high impaired driving rates and sentences that are out-of-sync with the rest of Canada, do you really think focusing on getting third-time offenders out of the interlock program and into a special licence database is the best plan?
Based on the stats, Islanders should be investing in curbing first-time offences and impaired driving in general, rather than lessening already-lax sentences for repeat offenders. Instead, I guess we’ll settle for public shaming in the form of license plates for now.