May 25th, 2024

Check stop campaign drives for sober response


By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on December 21, 2021.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard Police set up Christmas Check Stop Saturday night along Crowsnest Trail as part of the Lethbridge Police Service's Christmas Check Stop Campaign, which began earlier this month.

With the holiday season in full swing as well as the parties that come with them, the Lethbridge Police Service, with assistance from MADD Lethbridge and Area, are making sure motorists aren’t getting behind the wheel after a few spirits and continue to be on the lookout for the ones who are.
After beginning their LPS Christmas Check Stop Campaign Dec. 4, the LPS were out again Saturday night, this time along Crowsnest Trail, looking out for any motorists who may have had a few and chose to drive.
“It’s Lethbridge’s third check stop of the season,” said Brent Paxman, acting sergeant of the Traffic Response Unit for the Lethbridge Police Service. “We have a couple sheriffs with us as well. Every vehicle that gets stopped tonight is going to get a breath sample taken from them to make sure everybody is driving sober and getting home safely.”
So far this season, Paxman said they’ve checked roughly 1,200 vehicles before Saturday’s check stop with six impaired drivers among those.
“(There were) a few GDL (graduated driver’s license) suspensions and things like that. But for full impaireds, (there have been) six out of about 1,200. Which honestly, is pretty good. Obviously, that’s what we’re looking for and we know the impaired drivers are out there, we just have to find them.”
On Saturday, the LPS got a little roadside assistance from MADD Lethbridge and Area.
“When they do the holiday check stops our MADD volunteers come out and we partner with the Lethbridge Police Service and tonight we have the honour of having the Alberta Sheriffs with us as well,” said Anita Huchala, president and victim support volunteer for the MADD Lethbridge and Area chapter. “We stand alongside the officers and after they’ve cleared a driver and we know that person has chosen to drive sober our MADD volunteers have some candy canes with some red ribbons on them as they go through the check stop.
“We see it all too often on our roadways, especially when the holiday season is here and we’ve got the Christmas parties happening that the people who are hosting those parties are maybe not getting the message out to their guests that they should choose a sober ride home. So when there are plenty of taxis and Uber and you can also phone a sober friend or family member, I think it’s pretty clear we all should be driving sober.”
Paxman said the number of impaired drivers they catch over the holiday season has varied from year-to-year, hitting a peak of 12 about five years ago at their check stops.
With six so far this year, he said they may hit that number this year.
“We’re on pace to hit that this year, so this year is kind of a peak year. Last year we only did two check stops, but we only got one impaired out of both of them. But last year was kind of out of the ordinary in that there were hardly any vehicles out on the road last year. I would say anywhere between six and 10 would be normal.”
Passed last December, Bill 21 introduces new immediate roadside penalties to get impaired drivers off the street.
“This year we have the immediate roadside sanction, which is an Alberta sanction instead of a Criminal Code charge,” said Paxman. “What it has allowed us to do is locate these impaireds and deal with them accordingly in a much quicker fashion and without leaving the road. Normally, on a Criminal Code impaired charge it would take two and sometimes three officers off the road for about three or four hours. Now we can get an impaired driver off the road in about 45 minutes and not have to leave the road so we can get back.”
Though happy to be out at Saturday’s check stop, Huchala said MADD wasn’t out in the 2020 holiday season due to the pandemic.
“We did support the check stops and we did visits to the officers and dropped off coffee and thanked them for what they were doing,” she said. “But because of COVID we weren’t out there. This year, we can be out there again. So it does help bring awareness to the dangers of impaired driving. People are quite appreciative we are out here, especially when we do hand them a candy cane and say ‘Thank you.'”
Huchala said the simple act of planning ahead before the party and before having a few isn’t that difficult.
“It really isn’t. Make that phone call and book that taxi before you even partake in any spirits.”

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