Abbotsford Police Const. Scott McClure took 51 impaired drivers off the road in 2021, but he’s not doing it to meet any perceived quota.
Instead, McClure has a deeply personal reason for doing the work he does: His older brother, Jordan, died of an opioid drug overdose in 2013 at the age of 24, and McClure performed CPR on him to try to save him.
McClure uses that experience to talk to drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers about the consequences of their choices and the lives they can devastate.
“A lot of these people have substance-use disorder. My brother had substance-use disorder. So I can relate that back to them,” he said.
“I’ve used that story many, many times to make connections with people and encourage them to seek treatment.”
McClure joined the Abbotsford Police Department’s patrol section in May 2021 after five years in Delta.
He conducts impaired-driving investigations in Abbotsford and is also one of more than 100 police drug recognition experts serving the Lower Mainland.
He has had significant specialized training in drug- and alcohol-related investigations, and said he finds it “incredibly rewarding” to help remove these dangerous drivers from the roads.
McClure said it’s not difficult to find them.
“They’re out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you’re finding them at all times of the day.”
He said an obvious place to find impaired drivers is after pubs and restaurants close for the night, and, surprisingly, many of them are not far from home.
“A lot of people, the closer it is to home, the more confident they feel: ‘I won’t get caught …. I’m not putting anyone in jeopardy because it’s just around the corner.’ And they justify it in that sense,” McClure said.
But he also finds impaired drivers at other times and locations – such as when the liquor stores open at 9 a.m.
McClure will stay parked in his vehicle and watch for telltale signs of impairment – such as how the person parks their car or the way they are walking – and, if anything seems suspicious, follow them as they drive away.
Drivers who are impaired often forget small things such as signalling lane changes or turning on their headlights at night, he said.
When McClure pulls a driver over and they admit they have consumed alcohol, they often confess to only “a couple” of drinks.
“It’s amazing how many people adjust their thoughts to, ‘OK, when he asks how much I’ve had to drink, what am I going to say?’
“… I think their thought process is that if they say ‘one,’ they’re worried that won’t justify what the police officer’s seeing and ‘He’ll know that I’m lying. But if I say three, that sounds bad. So I’m going to say two’ … But a lot of times two drinks is actually six or seven.”
In 2021, APD officers took 778 impaired drivers off the roads, 625 of whom were impaired by alcohol and 153 by drugs. These files resulted in 547 immediate roadside prohibitions, 37 people charged criminally, 66 24-hour driving bans for alcohol, and 128 24-hour bans for drugs.
This compares to 558 total impaired files in 2020.
McClure said he has recently noticed an increase in the number of drug-impaired drivers. In January, he had one seven-day period where he was involved in five such investigations.
In many of these, he is called in after a collision. In one incident at the end of last year, a drug-impaired driver sideswiped a vehicle on George Ferguson Way. She had two kids in the car with her who were seized and are now with family members. The driver was arrested and faces criminal charges.
In another instance, a man driving erratically on Highway 1 was reported to police. While police were being dispatched, the driver pulled into a gas station on Mt. Lehman Road, where he passed out at the wheel.
Before police could get set up, he awoke, started driving and wouldn’t stop for police. He was eventually arrested after driving over a spike belt, and it was determined that he had been impaired by drugs.
Another file involved a man who was swerving all over Highway 1 and ended up in the grass median. He was able to get back on the freeway, and officers boxed him in on Clearbrook Road. He was immediately arrested, and officers found methamphetamine, crack cocaine and fentanyl in the vehicle.
McClure said many of these drivers will never get clean, but he hopes that some of the conversations he has with them lead to a few making better choices in the future.
“I see the value in it. Of course, I hope that it has a significant impact on the people that I’m dealing with. I try to deal with them in the most positive way that I can,” he said.