Lethbridge Herald
December 10, 2018

The colours red and blue look gorgeous illuminated on a Christmas tree, but perhaps not so much on a police vehicle after a night of holiday revelry.

And drivers who get into the spirits of Christmas a little too much this year can expect to see those blue and red lights daily at city Check Stops.

While the official season of intensified roadside checks began last weekend, city police made a point to drivers Saturday night with a high-profile Check Stop on the Crowsnest Trail.

This year, with the legalization of marijuana Lethbridge police now have another source of impairment to watch for and according to Sergeant Brent Paxman of the traffic response unit, they’re ready.

Police have access to – and have already called upon the services of – a drug recognition expert to determine if drivers are impaired by marijuana, said Paxman, noting marijuana “isn’t a new drug.”

Every year, police seem to record similar numbers of impaired drivers during Check Stops, he said. On the first weekend of this year’s campaign, police charged four people with impaired driving while also issuing 26 Traffic Safety Act and Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act tickets. Two people last weekend were also charged with resisting arrest and two drivers with graduated licences were suspended from driving for drinking alcohol.

Police will conduct three Check Stops a night at various locations during the Christmas season and into 2019. On Saturday, police intended to be at the first location for a couple of hours followed by more time spent at other locations, said Paxman.

While in past years other forces have joined the LPS on this particular stop, Saturday’s only had city police working.

“We’re here to let people know we are out there,” said Paxman, as a cold wind gained intensity through the Crowsnest Trail corridor.

“Drivers need to know we don’t need suspicion of alcohol use” to do a check, he said.

Volunteers with Mothers Against Drunk Driving participated in Saturday’s Check Stop, handing out literature and even treats.

Anita Huchala, president of the Lethbridge and area chapter, said it’s frustrating to see passengers in vehicles recording Check Stops on their cellphones and then posting the locations on social media to alert drivers.

“It’s very frustrating to us,” said Huchala who hopes none of the people revealing Check Stop locations ever has to deal with the dreaded knock on a door in the middle of the night, informing them a loved one has been killed by an impaired driver.

Under Alberta law, drivers caught with a blood alcohol concentration over .05 will have their licences suspended for three days and lose their vehicles for the same period while GDL drivers face a 30-day suspension and seven-day vehicle seizure.

Drivers charged for being impaired face an immediate 90-day suspension and afterwards will deal with an ignition interlock system employed on their vehicles for one year. Licences will be suspended again after conviction when drivers also will face fines or jail.

“We’re trying to get the message across and hope for the best,” said Paxman.