Members of the Lethbridge Police Service’s traffic response unit tackled the first evening of their annual check stop campaign on Saturday, the main focus being preventing impaired drivers from being on the road.
“We are not doing mandatory alcohol screening, but we are asking questions and trying to get impaired drivers off the road,” said Cst. Brent Paxton.
Police are also asking drivers about valid documentation including license, insurance and registration. They typically stop hundreds of vehicles in a six-hour period.
For the first time during a campaign, officers are equipped with sanctions under Bill 21.
“The new impaired laws will allow us to stay on the road more and deal with impaired drivers a bit quicker,” Paxman said.
Bill 21 introduced a new Immediate Roadside Sanction program, making for a quicker and stricter process.
Immediate consequences for impaired drivers include:
- New fines up to $2,000
- Increased length of vehicle seizure up to 30 days for certain offences
- New mandatory education programs for repeat offenders
- Increased driver’s license suspensions for repeat offenders
- Expanded mandatory ignition interlock for repeat offenders
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On Saturday, police issued one impaired driving sanction under the new provincial legislation, while also issuing eight violation tickets. Those included one expired license plate, cannabis within easy access, two learners license holders driving without a supervisor, and two driver’s without a license.
With new COVID-19 restrictions now in effect as of Sunday, Paxman said a drop in impaired driving is likely.
“When we had our first shutdown back in March, with the bars and everything shutting down, we had a significant drop in impaired driving,” he explained.
Anita Huchala, president of the local MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) chapter, said for those who have suffered loses from impaired driving, this time of year can be especially taxing.
“As the holidays approach, yes it does get difficult because there is that empty chair at the supper table,” she said.
MADD estimates between 1,250 and 1,500 people die from impairment-related crashes in Canada annually, or around four people per day.
Huchala hopes people will take the time to consider their actions before getting behind the wheel when intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.