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Kelowna impaired numbers 'disturbing'

Kelowna's stature as the number one city in Canada relative to impaired driving incidents in 2011 is both positive and disturbing.

That according to Kelowna RCMP Cst., Kris Clark.

Figures released Thursday by Statistics Canada show that, among cities with populations of at least 100,000, Kelowna had the highest rate of reported impaired incidents in the country.

In 2011, there were 1,063 impaired related incidents reported, a rate of 583 per 100,000 population, well above the BC and Canadian averages.

It's also an increase of 76 per cent over figures compiled just five years earlier.

"That's quite dramatic. That's disturbing," says Clark.

"The most disturbing thing about that is it's occurring at such a high rate."

Clark says it's not just alcohol that's to blame.

"What we've also seen is not only are people driving under the influence of alcohol - we're also seeing a marked increase in drug impaired drivers. That brings those numbers up and causes us to be concerned."

While the numbers are of concern to RCMP in the Central Okanagan, Clark says there is a positive in the numbers.

"It means that our enforcement is being effective. We've increased it over the years because road safety is one of our priorities," says Clark.

Clark also says the gap between summer and off-season files is starting to shrink.

There was a time says Clark when there was a real dip in impaired driving incidents in the summer as opposed to the winter.

"Now there is less of a slowdown throughout the winter," says Clark.

"We do see a lot of benefits of tourism through the summer and one of the unfortunate facts is that Kelowna seems to be treated as a bit of a resort town by some tourists."

He says the RCMP tailor their enforcement accordingly.

Clark adds the new impaired driving laws brought in a few years ago in BC are also a factor to the high numbers.

"Before that came into play an impaired was a full three or five hour investigation," adds Clark.

"Now, we can basically do it in 30 minutes to an hour on the roadside. That way we have more time to be proactive and investigate more impaired. It certainly does play a part."

As for the increase in drug related incidents, Clark says police are employing various new tactics.

"We're looking at other aspects such as drug impaired driving and implementing experts in that field to target those offenders," says Clark.

"Regardless of whether you have a prescription or are using non-prescription drugs, if you are impaired, you can be charged under the same laws as liquor."

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