Accomplice to drunk driving: Police caution against Tweeting RIDE checkstops

Matthew Coutts

There are few things more dangerous about social media than its ability to unite the public in outrageous acts of complicit stupidity.

From Reddit witch hunts that publicly convict innocent parties as terror suspects to Twitter pile-ons that devastate the lives over a single stupid message, there are countless examples of things going awry with the help of instantaneous connections made through our social media-reliant culture.

None, however, are more egregious than the annual instances of publicizing police spot checks through the Christmas and New Year's holiday season.

With New Year's Eve among the most debaucherous nights of the year, there are increased efforts by police forces across Canada to deter and stop drunk driving.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, a counter offensive has emerged to undermine those efforts and seemingly assist those seeking to avoid detection. In recent years, it has become common to find people reporting the locations of police checkpoints. Drinking and driving has never had so many accomplices.

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There is even a Twitter account dedicated to publicizing Calgary check stops. The account's synopsis claims they are providing a service for those who "want to be responsible yet would like the odds a little more in their favour."

The message, however, is clear. If you think you might be driving under the influence, or are planning to, avoid these traps.

Insp. Michael Watterston told the Calgary Herald that this simple act exacerbates the dangers the public faces, especially at this time of year.

“If you are facilitating or helping that impaired driver go around the checkstop, you have no idea what community that person is now going to drive through,” he told the newspaper. “By you giving the location, they’re going to avoid detection and apprehension, and we all know full well that impaired drivers don’t pick and choose who their victims are going to be.”

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On this issue, police across the country are united.

Many outfits have amended their annual plea for residents not to drink and drive to include requests that the public not publicize the locations of their spot checks.

Police in Edmonton and Ottawa have similarly issues requests to keep silent on spot check locations, even if there has been no evidence the practice has reduced the number of drivers dodging check points.

Thankfully, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Now that the habit of publicizing check points has become commonplace and expected online, more responsible social media users are registering their disgust. There is even a movement to confuse the issue by posting fake spot check locations.

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