By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – With Albertans getting into the holiday spirit this month, RCMP are hoping they don’t consume too many spirits, at least not if they plan to get behind the wheel.
Morinville RCMP Staff Sergeant Mac Richards said members of his detachment, provincial sheriffs and the traffic services unit will be conducting check stops and random patrols throughout the month of December, actively looking for impaired drivers.
“There’s really no date, no time, no location, but suffice to say we will be doing the big check stops people see and a roving patrol,” Richards said. “At any time you can expect to see a police car in your review mirror.”
The detachment has good reason to ramp up its search for impaired drivers. Provincial statistics show that from 2003 to 2007 an average of 115 people were killed and another 1,920 were injured each year in collisions involving at least one driver who had consumed alcohol prior to the crash.
Staff Sergeant Richards said the Morinville RCMP Detachment laid 119 drinking and driving-related charges from January to November of this year.
Provincially, approximately 7,700 people are convicted of impaired driving in Alberta each year and roughly 8,300 24-hour driving suspensions are issued annually. That number includes those whose driving police suspect has been physically or mentally impaired by alcohol, drugs or other substances.
Provincial statistics suggest one in five drivers involved in fatal collisions were drinking prior to the collision and one in 20 injured in collisions were impaired at the time of the accident.
With the high probability of injury and fatality, Richards and the other members of his detachment are hoping people get the message through the many channels it is distributed at this time of year.
“A lot of the time there is so much emphasis on this month that people get the message,” he said. “It’s definitely in the forefront, not only from the police’s side in press releases, but community groups’ press releases.”
Richards said it is important for those looking to celebrate the season to take steps to make sure they get home safely.
“The first thing the public can do for us is plan ahead,” he said. “If you’re going to be consuming alcohol, plan before you get there how you’re going to get home because sometimes cabs are tough to get, depending on the time of day. If you’ve already made those plans before you leave, it reduces the temptation to drink and drive.”
But Richards said the public can also be of assistance in reporting drivers they suspect may be impaired. The RCMP have had great success in 2010 in catching impaired drivers, partly due to the assistance of the public reporting potential impaired drivers.