Alexa’s Bus: Money Poorly Spent

This past week, the Middelaer family is again in the news. Not only were the announcements made about the winners of the Alexa’s Team Awards – a foolish way to encourage sloppy policing – but Alexa’s Bus was processing impaired drivers over the weekend. Or so the Government would have you believe.

If the British Columbia government spent $300,000 on a Skytrain line that was never used by passengers, citizens would be up in arms about irresponsible government spending. If they fundraised the $300,000 for the Skytrain, and then paid taxpayer money to staff it, maintain it, and ensure that it was functional and operational, the public would be furious.

The same situation exists for Alexa’s Bus.

Alexa’s Bus is a mobile impaired driving unit. It allows police officers to process impaired drivers directly at the roadside, without having to return to the police detachment. It is meant to be used for criminal investigations, where breath samples are provided into a breathalyzer instrument rather than a handheld device. It comes equipped with two holding cells, and a phone booth for contact with lawyers. In theory, it is a reasonable idea. In practice, I have significant concerns about taking breath samples in those conditions. But that’s another blog post for another day.

The thinking behind the bus is that it creates more efficient impaired driving investigations. Drivers do not have to wait to contact counsel at the police station. That can be done roadside. Evidentiary breath tests can be provided at roadside, and the sophisticated instrument to take those samples is all contained inside the bus. Oftentimes, impaired driving prosecutions fail because of issues related to delay. The bus eliminates delay, making prosecutions more successful.

In theory.

The problem I have with the bus is that it is a waste of taxpayer money. Over the weekend, Kamloops RCMP bragged that they had stopped 2000 drivers using the bus. That’s only accurate if you consider “using the bus” to be parking it next to a roadblock and, well, not using the bus. Of the 2000 drivers stopped, sixteen were given roadside breath tests using a handheld breathalyzer. No drivers were given breath tests on the evidentiary instrument. Zero.

Two thousand drivers, none of the features of the bus put into use.

As an aside, of the sixteen breath tests, only five yielded results that showed a driver was impaired. That raises significant concerns in my mind about the ability of police to even detect impaired drivers, and the lawfulness of demands for breath samples. But that, too, is another blog post.

It is offensive that $300,000 was fundraised from the public for a bus that collects dust. For $300 I could airbrush an anti-drunk driving message on the side of an old VW Van and park it at a roadblock. It’s about as useful and effective as Alexa’s Bus. The whole purpose of the bus was thwarted by the Immediate Roadside Prohibition scheme, which doesn’t require evidentiary breath samples. The Government’s spin on the failure of the bus to be an effective tool is also offensive: “it’s raising awareness.”

I can think of about a hundred different ways to raise awareness about drunk driving, more effectively than Alexa’s Bus parked at one roadblock over the weekend in Kamloops. And I could even do all 100 ways with $300,000. The public is being sold a lie and a sham. Alexa’s Bus is doing nothing to decrease drunk driving or assist in these investigations when it isn’t being used for its intended purpose. Or, really, at all.

The bus was not necessary for the 24-Hour Prohibitions for drugs, the 5 90-day IRPs, the 24 Violation Tickets, the drug seizures, or the Notice and Order for vehicle safety. Were the roadblock present without the bus, those things all would still have happened in that way. Nothing changed because of the bus. The only difference is that taxpayers had to pay for the fuel for the bus, the power to the equipment, the materials used with the breath tester, and a dedicated operator of the instrument to be available for testing. All that money was spent for no reason.

The bus is a waste of taxpayer money, and it is not being used for its intended purpose. Its intended purpose has been rendered moot by the Immediate Roadside Prohibition legislation. But the Government wants you to believe it’s money well spent.

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