Lacombe police conducting roadside check stops over holiday season

RCMP K-Division impaired driving specialist Sgt. Brent Robinson with an approved screening device used to test drivers for alcohol impairment on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Edmonton. Effective Dec. 18, 2018 police will be able to test a driver for alcohol and drugs without probable cause. Larry Wong / Postmedia

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The Lacombe Police Service will be out in the city conducting roadside check stops at various locations over the course of the holiday season.

The check stops will be part of an ongoing campaign to get – and hopefully keep – impaired drivers off the streets.

“We recognize that this is a special time of year when people get together with friends and family to celebrate the season,” said Police Chief Lorne Blumhagen. “We understand that citizens are going to get out and celebrate, however, we encourage everyone to celebrate responsibly by not driving after consuming alcohol or cannabis.”

With mandatory alcohol screening rules set to go into effect, as per federal legislation, Tuesday, Dec. 18, Alberta RCMP and police with an approved portable Breathalyzer on hand will be able to demand breath samples from any driver they lawfully pull over.

Under the new rules, officers do not have to suspect a driver has alcohol in their body to demand a breath sample, and sober or not, those who refuse to provide one will be charged with refusal to provide a sample – an offence carrying the same criminal penalties and provincial sanctions as an impaired driving charge.

RCMP traffic services Supt. Gary Graham told Postmedia last week this sort of test has already been rolled out in other countries with positive results.

“Impaired driving remains one of the leading criminal causes of death an injury in Canada,” said Graham. “Mandatory alcohol screening is said to be considered one of the most significant public safety tools available to police.”

He credited the program for a 40 per cent decrease in alcohol impaired driving charges in Ireland over the past three years.

In Alberta, a refusal conviction or a first impaired conviction comes with a minimum punishment of a $1,000 fine and one year of driving prohibition. Subsequent offences result in imprisonment.

LPS is also encouraging the public to report impaired drivers by calling 9-1-1 through a hands-free device, as well as making sure those who choose to consume have other methods of transportation planned ahead of time.

“We would also like to encourage party-goers to plan ahead and make alternate transportation plans,” said Blumhagen. “Do not risk losing your licence, your job, or worse, your life or the lives of any others on the road.”

-With files from Clare Rayment