Alberta police team up for holiday checkstop campaign

Calgary Const. Paul Knoechel conducts a daytime traffic stop Thursday in the city's Northwest. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Calgary Const. Paul Knoechel conducts a daytime traffic stop Thursday in the city's Northwest. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

Police across the province are sending out a message to Albertans ahead of New Year's Eve: if you drink, don't drive.

The Calgary Police Service and Edmonton Police Service (EPS) have partnered with neighbouring authorities in a joint agency checkstop campaign for the holiday season to help keep impaired drivers off the roads.

EPS working with the RCMP and Alberta Sheriffs, and CPS with Tsuut'ina Police have been conducting roadside checks for alcohol, certain prescription medication, cannabis and illegal drug use while behind the wheel.

Since the beginning of December, Calgary police have conducted four joint-force checkstops that resulted in removing 39 impaired drivers from the roads, according to CPS acting staff Sgt. Brad Norman.

"We were in Cochrane the Thursday before Christmas and we ended up with 15 out there."

Checkstop programs in both Edmonton and Calgary involve vehicle-stop locations and roving patrols.

Norman says the stops will continue through New Year's Eve and he wants the public to know there are many options other than driving impaired.

"There's so many things that you can do to get home safe: your Uber, your friends, your transit, your taxis. You can even pre-arrange those to have your pickup set up at a certain time so there's no excuse," he said.

If drivers are found to be under the influence at a checkstop, Norman says they will need to order Uber or have a friend pick them up.

"What really baffles my mind is when we do get someone then they end up phoning a friend or an Uber to come get them from our check stop location and if they would have done that in the first place, they would not have been in that predicament," he said.

Edmonton police say 653 drivers were screened during a three-hour period on Dec. 16. Two drivers received an immediate 30-day vehicle impoundment, a 15-month licence suspension, a $1,000 fine and will have to complete a two-day course.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

Two other drivers were given warnings, which included a three-day licence suspension and a $300 fine.

Police also issued one $120 ticket to a driver they say had cannabis within reach while driving.

"Whether the driver is impaired by alcohol, prescription medication, cannabis or illegal drugs, it has always been a criminal offence to drive while being impaired," Edmonton staff Sgt Dan Furman said in a release. "You're risking losing your licence, your job and you're also risking your life, the lives of any other occupants in your vehicle and the lives of those on the roads around you."

In 2020, the Criminal Code of Canada initiated a mandatory alcohol screening protocol, which prevented drivers from refusing to comply with a roadside alcohol check.

This new tool allowed officers to ask for breath samples during any vehicle stop. Norman says it's been a helpful resource in preventing impaired drivers from continuing past a roadside check.

"For instance we do a traffic stop, we can go up to this vehicle and read the mandatory alcohol screening demand and they have to provide our sample," he said.