By Lethbridge Herald on December 1, 2020.
New impaired-driving laws which go into effect today should allow Lethbridge Police Service to collar more offenders and provide greater safety to those they share the road with.
Under Bill 21, police are able to administer stricter impaired-driving penalties on the road, while most first-time impaired-driving charges will be handled quicker outside of court through SafeRoads Alberta. Impaired drivers could face larger fines and lose their vehicles for up to 30 days.
SafeRoads Alberta, a new adjudication branch, will allow drivers to pay their fees online, request more time to pay their penalty, or dispute their Immediate Roadside Sanction or vehicle seizure.
“This streamlines the system, so we can identify more impaired drivers and get them off the road,” said Kevin Talbot, Acting Staff Sgt. with Lethbridge Police Field Operations Support Services, in a news release.
To view the Government of Alberta news release and related information on Bill 21, go to https://bit.ly/3qhSemk.
While Lethbridge Police will still be conducting impaired-driving investigations, Talbot says Bill 21 should reduce the amount of time they need to spend on each.
“In the past, you stop an impaired driver and your evening is done for probably three hours once you do the roadside, get the sample, do up the paperwork,” he says. “This process is very short and sweet. It shouldn’t take more than a half hour to do it.”
Under existing regulations, the work has just begun if the driver pleads not guilty. The Lethbridge Police records management unit has to put together disclosure documents for prosecutors and the investigating officer could be tied up in the ensuing court process for as much as a year or longer.
Talbot notes that process also proved costly through overtime wages, since the investigating officer was often called to court on days off.
Not only have Lethbridge Police trained its frontline officers and records staff on the new procedures, they’ve also purchased an additional 20 roadside screening devices, doubling their current inventory.
“In the end, if we have more equipment on the road, we can get more impaired drivers off the road,” Talbot says.
As for the annual Christmas Checkstop campaign, Lethbridge Police do have dates set for December and are in the process of making adjustments to ensure the safety of the public and its officers during the COVID-19 pandemic.