Roads will be looking a little bit safer this weekend as the Lethbridge Police Service kicks off its 2021 Christmas Check Stop Campaign.
“The primary goal of the check stop program is to locate and apprehend impaired drivers due to the significant risk to public safety they pose,” said Acting Sgt. Brent Paxman of the LPS’ traffic response unit.
The campaign will start Dec. 3 and run until January. It’s a group effort put on by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the LPS and volunteers.
In 2019, officers laid six impaired driving charges at a check stop.
For 2020, things looked a little bit slower on the roads around the holiday season.
“We noted a significant decrease in the number of impaired drivers out on the road as restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic limited larger celebrations,” Paxman said.
Dine-in services at restaurants were also closed. But according to the province, over the last year there has been a 43 per cent increase in impaired driving charges across Alberta. And with the number of COVID-19 restrictions being less than last year, officers are prepared to patrol busier streets.
For the second year, they will be equipped with sanctions under Bill 21.
Bill 21 received royal assent in July 2020 and 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 licence suspensions for repeat offenders
- Expanded mandatory ignition interlock for repeat offenders
Getting a sanction doesn’t mean criminal charges are laid, although that is still a possibility.
Paxman said that the legislation helps free up time for officers.
“The old process would take one to two officers off the road for probably a four-hour period,” he said. “Now we don’t ever have to leave that check stop and can usually be done in under an hour by one officer.”
COVID-19 precautions will in effect at check stops to ensure safety for drivers, officers and volunteers.