RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs, Fish and Wildlife and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement invited media to Bragg Creek May 16 to witness a checkstop operation that kicked off an enforcement blitz for the Victoria Day long weekend.
Sgt. Darrin Turnbull, of Alberta RCMP Traffic Services, said police and partner agencies wanted to get the word out that multiple checkstops will be setup throughout the long weekend, and RCMP will be conducting mandatory drug and alcohol testing.
"We're trying to get the message out about safety – safety when you're out in the mountains, in the mountain parks, safety while you're driving," he said. "One of our primary objectives, on the RCMP side, is looking for impaired drivers."
At a checkstop, drivers are asked a few simple questions, including if the driver has consumed alcohol in the previous 20 minutes. The driver is then asked to blow into a handheld device and a number indicating the level of intoxication pops up. Drivers with results under the limit are issued a sticker for the car and are allowed to continue on. As demonstrated to this reporter, the entire process takes under a minute.
"We're doing mandatory alcohol screening of as many vehicles as we can coming through, as quickly as we can," Turnbull said. "Over the entire long weekend there are going to be numerous checkstops throughout all of Alberta."
He said there will be a large enforcement presence in "all the hot spots" such as the Cochrane, Waiparous and mountain areas heading into national and provincial parks.
"The goal is, by the end of the long weekend, no one is seriously injured or killed in a car crash," Turnbull said. "Last year, we had four people die – two people in motor vehicle accidents on the highway and two people in off-highway vehicle collisions. Four is way too many. One is too many. So we're hoping next week when we take a look at it, nobody died."
Open liquor and intoxicated driving will be subject to a zero-tolerance response, with police reminding drivers cannabis is treated the same as liquor under traffic enforcement laws.
"Anyone who is driving with open liquor, will be getting ticketed. Anyone who provides a breath sample that's a caution on the instrument, that's a three-day driving suspension and a three-day vehicle seizure," Turnbull said. "If you blow and fail, you're going to be investigated for impaired driving."
He said there will also be drug recognition experts present, attempting to weed out those impaired by any type of drug – including prescription medication.
Though cannabis is legal now, Turnbull said if the drug is found in the vehicle, office will be working to ensure it was purchased lawfully from a government-approved distributor.
"It cannot be from your local drug dealer. It has to be lawfully packaged. It's got to be, just like alcohol, out of reach, it's got to be sealed, it's got to be in the trunk," he said.