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CounterAttack: Police launch holiday season impaired driving crackdown

Click to play video: 'Criminal and civil consequences of cannabis-impaired driving' Criminal and civil consequences of cannabis-impaired driving
WATCH: Criminal and civil consequences of cannabis-impaired driving – Nov 28, 2018

Holiday revelers are being reminded leave the car at home — or make other plans for a safe ride — as police across B.C. gear up for their annual crackdown on impaired driving.

Saturday marks the kickoff of the month-long CounterAttack campaign, the first since Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use.

There is currently only one roadside drug detection device approved for use in Canada, the Dräger DrugTest 5000, but few Canadian police forces have elected to use it.

READ MORE: No spike in cannabis-impaired driving one month after legalization, data shows

However, the B.C. RCMP says it is prepared and equipped to catch drug-impaired drivers and that officers will be using Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and specially trained Drug Recognition Experts.

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Police will be conducting enhanced enforcement in B.C. communities, including beefed-up road checks and co-ordinated efforts like the Vancouver Island District Traffic Services’ “Light Up the Highway” event, which involves checkpoint stops along the length of the island.

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According to ICBC, an average of 68 people die every year in collisions where alcohol or drugs were involved.

READ MORE: Here are the challenges police could face in laying charges for pot-impaired driving

“A small decision can have great consequences,” said Supt. Davis Wendell, Officer in Charge of BC RCMP Traffic Services in a media release.

“If you are planning on drinking or using drugs this holiday season, please do not drive. By finding an alternative way home such as public transit, taxi or a designated driver you can ensure that you, and others sharing the road with you, get to their destination safely.”

WATCH: Bill C-46 helps gives Canada a strong regime against impaired driving

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Drivers caught impaired behind the wheel can face a variety of stiff penalties in B.C.

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Those include driving suspensions from 24 hours to 90 days, vehicle impoundment, fines ranging from $600 to $4,060, or even jail time.

READ MORE: Three B.C. cities make top 10 drunk driving list

Drivers could also be slapped with a Driver Risk Premium on their insurance.

Police and ICBC are encouraging people who know they will be drinking or using cannabis to plan ahead and to consider taxi or transit service, to call a friend or to use programs like Operation Red Nose to get home.

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