CounterAttack message seems to be getting through 

The CounterAttack message, that drunk driving will not be tolerated, appeared to be coming across loud and clear in Whistler this holiday season, especially on New Year's Eve.

Last Monday as thousands of cars slowly wound their way up and down Highway 99, drivers encountered two road blocks – one located at the north of the village near the entranceway to Nicklaus North, the other at the south of the village at Brio.

"This weekend coming up is probably the busiest weekend," said Elizabeth Goldenshtein, a spokesperson for ICBC.

But of all those cars that were stopped on New Year's Eve, not one driver was arrested or charged with impaired driving.

Instead, police said there was a significant amount of alcohol that was poured out at the roadblocks due to open bottles of booze in cars.

Both the police and First Night organizers believe that the roadblocks were critical in making the event a success this year.

And they attribute the fact that there were no arrests to the heavy "zero tolerance" advertising that accompanied this year's event.

Despite all the advertising about the dangers of drunk driving, however, an average of 4.5 people are killed each day in Canada in alcohol related traffic accidents, said Jackie Heller, the president of the Central Okanagan MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) chapter. In addition, 125 people are injured in Canada for the same reasons.

She believes that the CounterAttack program plays a very important role in keeping those numbers in check.

CounterAttack began in 1984 during the Christmas holiday season in an effort to curb the amount of people getting behind the wheel of a car when drinking.

Since then the program has grown and expanded with the RCMP and municipal police forces providing over 125,000 hours of road blocks in 2000.

ICBC provides the funding for the program, which usually involves officers working on overtime.

Throughout 2001 ICBC gave CounterAttack around $10.5 million to fund the program for the entire year, which is comparable to the amount of money that was given in prior years.

Earlier this year there were rumours that ICBC was going to pull the funding from the program, but Goldenshtein said that's not true and ICBC representatives will be sitting down with the police some time in January to decide how much money will be needed for 2002.

"I'm glad they didn't pull the funding because you would have seen your 4.5 (deaths) at least double because there would have been no deterrents," said Heller. "CounterAttack is a very, very good deterrent."

Heller believes that drivers tend to be more careful around Christmas time because they know that CounterAttack is on the road.

"May is a huge month. May is worse than December because everyone is expecting them to be out for Christmas," she said.

She added that impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada.


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