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Police question motivation of tweeting roadblock locations

Police set up roadblocks to check if drivers have been drinking. Should social media users be revealing where roadblocks are located? - Boaz Joseph file photo
Police set up roadblocks to check if drivers have been drinking. Should social media users be revealing where roadblocks are located?
— image credit: Boaz Joseph file photo

From the era of social media has sprung a new iteration of a familiar debate.

For decades, drivers have thumbed their noses at police by flashing their high beams near speed traps to alert those travelling in the opposite direction.

In more recent times, radio stations have become involved, with regular traffic alerts urging commuters to ease up on the gas pedal, especially at certain intersections or along certain stretches of roadway where police were surreptitiously conducting enforcement.

The latest incarnation involves social media, and specifically Twitter, with Drunk Drivers in BC (@DrunkDrivingBC) outing eight twitter users for “helping drunk drivers in #Vancouver” last week.

The tweet included an image, showing the Twitter names and tweets being called into question.

@RoadblocksBC cops checking for drugs and alcohol Hastings eastbound on highway 1 ramp,” wrote Brooklyn (@brooklynlovee) on May 2.

Tweeted Sim Shady (@Sidhu187) on May 3:  “@RoadblocksBC roadblock on oak street bridge towards Richmond”

An Abbotsford Police Officer (Cst DYoung APD) then entered the conversation.

“Why help drunk drivers?” @deltarok tweeted, which prompted a response by Jeremy Hakansson (@jhakansson): “not everyone that goes through a roadblock is drunk. People want to avoid being harassed.”

Then LuluIsland (@LuluIsland1) offered: “@DrunkDrivingBC Just wondering how do you know if each tweet is meant to help drunk drivers?”

So, are high-beam flashers, radio stations and now social media users, doing more harm than good? While the intent and outcome can certainly be debated about all three, there’s no question about the popularity.

Roadblocks BC (@RoadblocksBC) has more than 18,800 followers and doesn’t follow anybody, and provides “updates on all roadblocks, seatbelt checks and road traps in the Lower Mainland,” according to its Twitter bio.

But the person (or people) behind the account suggests they don’t like people getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“Do not drink and drive!” @RoadblocksBC’s Twitter bio said.

From a policing perspective, the goal is to get drivers to follow the speed limit and to make the decision to not get behind the steering wheel when they’re impaired, said RCMP Sgt. Rob Vermeulen.

“We don’t have an issue with people using social media to advise that police have roadblocks set up,” Vermeulen said. “The more the message that police are out conducting enforcement gets heard, the greater chance we have that someone will make the right choice and choose not to drive while impaired.”

But as far as providing specific locations on roadblocks, Vermeulen said: “...(W)e would question the motivation for someone wanting to assist impaired drivers in avoiding detection, thereby risking the lives of everyone else on the road.”

How about police speed trap alerts?

“Media have been providing speed enforcement locations for years. Often our locations have changed by the time word spreads,” Vermeulen said. “Ultimately our goal is for drivers to slow down. If people slow down because of media reports or social media then it achieves what we’re trying to do.”

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