Police launch holiday Checkstops as mandatory roadside screening comes into effect

Edmonton police will be patrolling in full force over the holidays with the goal of keeping impaired drivers off the streets.

The force’s impaired driving unit launched its holiday Checkstop program Thursday and plan to keep it going through the month of December.

“The holidays are always a special time for friends and family coming home from around the province and country,” Sgt. Rob Davis said in a news release. “The public will see our officers working Checkstops across the city throughout the holidays, to help ensure everyone gets home safely.”

This year, police will also be dealing with legal cannabis as a driving impairment, but say it will be business as usual.

“Regardless if you’ve consumed too much alcohol, prescription medication and/or cannabis, plain and simple, it has always been a criminal offence to drive while being impaired,” Davis said in the release.

Police said they have always had the means to test drug-impaired driving, and those methods remain in place.

If a police officer suspects a driver is impaired by a drug, they will conduct a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) at the roadside, Davis said. The test consists of some preliminary questions, an eye exam and some movement tests.

If the test determines impairment, the driver will be arrested and taken to a police station to be evaluated by a drug recognition expert, who can demand a urine or blood sample. Officers may also request an oral fluid sample at the roadside, which, if positive, will trigger an evaluation.

Const. Braydon Lawrence performs a drug test using an oral swab on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Edmonton. The swab is used in the Draeger DrugTest 5000 to detect impairment by cannabis or cocaine. (Greg Southam — Postmedia)

What will be new is the addition of mandatory alcohol screening, which will become a requirement across Canada as of Dec. 18. Police will be able to conduct a roadside alcohol test on any person who has been lawfully stopped without grounds of suspected impairment.

RCMP Alberta will be reminding the public of the upcoming legislation and providing a demonstration of the practice Monday.

The city’s Checkstop program involves vehicle-stop locations as well as roving patrols across the city looking for impaired drivers.

During the 2017 holiday campaign, 42 drivers were arrested and another 72 drivers received roadside suspensions for impaired driving. Police ran 13 operations in December and checked 3,530 vehicles.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3

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