‘Don’t risk drinking and driving’: EPS holiday checkstop campaign in full swing

Police officers are reminding drivers in the Edmonton area to find alternative ways home if they have consumed alcohol or drugs as the holiday checkstop campaign has launched.

On Friday night, a joint checkstop with RCMP and Alberta Sheriffs in the northwest screened for drug-impaired or drunk drivers as part of the Edmonton Police Service’s holiday blitz.

“We run checkstop campaigns throughout the year, but certainly the holidays are an important time,” said Staff Sgt. Dan Furman, EPS specialized traffic unit lead.

“People are out celebrating,” he added. “We understand that and encourage it, but what we want to do is make sure that people make the right decisions and they make sure they’re getting home safe at the end of the night.”

Whether it be prescription medication, alcohol, cannabis or other illegal drugs, Furman emphasized motorists plan ahead and consider their options instead of driving impaired, like asking a friend or family member for a ride, taking a taxi or rideshare.

“Please, please, just don’t risk drinking and driving or using any kind of drug and driving,” he said.

Checkstops use mandatory alcohol screening and standardized field sobriety tests to confirm drivers are not impaired.

In 2018, more than 1,120 impaired charges or sanctions were issued by EPS. That increased to 1,350 a year later but declined to 981 in 2020.

Last year, EPS laid around 1,011 charges or sanctions against impaired drivers.

An Edmonton Police Service officer conducts a checkstop to screen for impaired drivers on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 (CTV News Edmonton/Sean McClune).

According to Furman, to date this year, EPS has laid more than 850 charges for confirmed impaired driving by alcohol or drugs. He anticipates that final tally to be well over 1,000.

“I think what’s concerning is that despite all the effort we’ve done over the years with media, police, our partners with MADD Canada to educate the public on the ramifications of impaired driving, we are still seeing some people out there who think it is acceptable,” Furman said.

“The reality is, it is it’s unacceptable to drive while impaired by alcohol or drug.”

Refusing to provide a breath sample can lead to immediate roadside sanctions or criminal charges.

Failing a roadside screening for impaired driving can result in “real consequences,” Furman said, including a driver’s licence suspension, vehicle seizure, fines, or even criminal charges and jail time.

“The safest option is always if you are going to consume any kind of alcohol or drug, any little bit inhibits your ability to operate a motor vehicle,” Furman added.

If you suspect a driver is impaired, call 911 as soon as it is safe to do so. Note the location, licence plate number, vehicle description and last direction of travel.

Should police be unable to locate that vehicle, through the Curb the Danger program, EPS can issue a warning letter to the registered owner of the suspected vehicle that a concerned citizen reported it for potential impaired driving.

Last year, almost 6,700 calls reported potentially impaired motorists. Almost a third were successfully intercepted by officers, with 467 receiving impaired driving sanctions and 78 instances where criminal charges were laid.

Edmonton police Const. Adam Cotterall, with the impaired driving unit, knows the consequences impaired driving can have. Twenty-five years ago, an impaired driver killed a close friend in a head-on crash.

EPS Const. Adam Cotterall speaks with reporters at a checkstop on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 (CTV News Edmonton/Sean McClune).

Now, being involved with checkstops, he looks forward to being able to educate drivers on the ramifications a decision to drive while impaired can have.

“Without a question being here to be able to participate in this type of operation does mean something to me,” Cotterall said.

“I think about my past and how it impacted my life and every time I’m able to remove an impaired driver off the road, there’s a sense of gratitude,” he added. “Who knows if they would’ve been involved in a collision or god forbid, hurt somebody, but I know that can happen.” 

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