If you’re drunk or high – or both – with a hankering for hamburgers and fries in Burlington, Halton police will likely be catching up with you sooner than you think.
At least seven impaired driving charges have already been laid since the launch of Project Drive Thru, versus 10 charges involving fast-food restaurants in 2016.
“It’s a major community safety concern,” said Const. Dave Stewart from the district response team.
He’s behind the pilot project which launched three months ago.
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Police are partnering with 38 fast-food restaurants with drive-thru windows across the city to help take suspected impaired drivers off the road.
“I came up with the idea after responding to calls myself,” said Stewart, adding when he spoke to fast-food managers and employees about the drivers they encounter, he realized they were only contacting police to deal with the most grim situations.
“We don’t want them just calling in the people passed out at the wheel,” said Stewart.
“There are people out there that can really handle their alcohol.”
Same goes for drugs.
Here’s how the program works: Fast-food employees are schooled on how to identify customers under the influence and given the confidence to do something about it.
Since most employees are in their late teens to early twenties, posters depicting emojis are used to convey the message, and police also created a YouTube video.
Signs of impairment include the inability to navigate the drive-thru or operate vehicle instruments, the smell and/or sight of drugs or alcohol in a vehicle or on a driver’s breath, drowsiness, glossy eyes, slurred speech and reduced motor skills.
“If something’s not right, call 911,” said Stewart.
He points out employees aren’t instructed to stall drivers or take matters into their own hands.
At the end of the day, “we can’t make people call us,” Stewart said.
“If people wish to remain anonymous, they can. They’re under no obligation to give a statement to police.”
Officers typically deal with impaired drivers from 9 p.m. on Fridays until Saturday at 3 a.m.
Having said that, drunk or drugged drivers don’t just come out at night.
“It does happen during the week during the daytime,” said Stewart.
He recalls a driver who was impaired by drugs at Tim Horton’s before sunset.
“It’s a mixed bag, I guess you could say.”
So far, the project has been well-received.
“We don’t know how many people we’re going to deter,” Stewart said.
“It may even deter employees from drinking and driving.”
Project Drive Thru is running year-round in Burlington, with plans to eventually cover Oakville, Milton, and Halton Hills-Acton.
If it’s something other police services are interested in, “we’ll definitely expand,” said Stewart.