Lethbridge police keeping eyes peeled for high drivers during the holidays

Officers with the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) had a busy weekend after holding a large-scale check stop Saturday night.

Members of the Traffic Response Unit are used to asking drivers if they’ve had anything to drink or if there is alcohol in their vehicle, but this is going to be the first holiday season where they’ll ask if a driver has legally consumed marijuana.

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“We’ve all had certain training for that, but it’s not a new drug,” A/Sgt. Brent Paxman said. “It’s not something that we haven’t seen before.”

Last week, an LPS check stop resulted in four impaired driving charges.

Officers also handed out 26 tickets under the Traffic Safety Act and Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act.

While the police force doesn’t have a device to determine whether a driver is high, LPS does have a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).

“If a member stops someone that they have grounds to believe that they are high on a certain drug, they can make that arrest and call in the DRE and they do an evaluation,” Paxman said.

For advocates against impaired driving, large-scale check stops are just part of getting the message across to drivers who risk getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“By doing a check stop like this, if we can help save one family from hearing that knock on the door at 2 a.m., us as volunteers have helped do our job out here,” said Mothers Against Drunk Driving Lethbridge and Area chapter president Anita Huchala.

Operation Red Nose is noticing an increased demand for its services.

Friday night saw a record amount of rides given this year, with nearly 140 tallied.

Organizers said they haven’t had to make any changes to account for cannabis, but it’s become part of the discussion with volunteers.

“I think we’re fairly comfortable with it. We hope that that stays that way, but everyone just has a heightened awareness around it,” said Operation Red Nose coordinator Spencer Pommells.

Police hope the check stops serve as a sober reminder during the holiday season.

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