Drivers urged to find another way home

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Okotoks law enforcement is reminding party-goers and dinner guests to arrange for alternate ways home if they plan to have a couple beverages – preferably before they start drinking.

“Plan ahead,” said Okotoks RCMP Sgt. Darrin Turnbull. “Alcohol affects your ability to make a good decision.”

He said most people don’t wake up with the intention of being a drunk driver and breaking the law, but then they hit the office Christmas party or a friend’s house and start having a few drinks, which impairs their judgment whether to drive.

It can lead to people believing they’re okay to drive when they really shouldn’t be, he said.

“If you start drinking alcohol and all of a sudden you’ve had two, three, four, five or six drinks, your ability to make a good decision is impaired,” said Turnbull. “Just like your ability to drive.”

Okotoks RCMP will be conducting checkstops in town as often as possible through the holidays.

Turnbull said RCMP plan to have a strong presence on the roads.

“As available, the members are going to be out setting up checkstops here in the Okotoks detachment area looking for those impaired drivers, both by alcohol and drugs,” he said.

RCMP officers have been trained in recognizing drug impairment, said Turnbull. A lot of members are trained for standardized field sobriety tests administered on the side of the road, and some have higher levels of training to assist in identifying someone impaired by drug, he said.

When alcohol is suspected – like when a driver smells of alcohol – a roadside breath test will be given to assess the level of impairment, said Turnbull.

It’s not so easy with drugs.

“We don’t have anything like that for drugs, so we have them do sobriety tests to see how they’re doing,” said Turnbull. “These psycho-physical sobriety tests allow us to observe the person’s performance, and if we then form the opinion the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by a drug, then that person will be arrested for impaired driving.”

The driver would then be assessed by a drug recognition expert (DRE), he said. This person is a highly-specialized, highly-trained officer who is specifically trained to come in and do a 12-step process on drug evaluation, he said.

Tests review psycho-physical tests as well as physiological symptoms such as pulse, blood pressure and body temperature.

If the officer forms the opinion the driver was impaired by drug, Turnbull said he or she will then try to narrow it down to one of seven drug categories. After a urine sample determines the types of drug present, the driver would be charged under Section 253 of the criminal code for impaired driving by drug, he said.

Checkstops can help identify impaired drivers, but Turnbull said the RCMP are looking for voluntary compliance, and for the community to be aware of their impairment and make other plans.

“Tragically, sometimes they don’t bump into a checkstop,” said Turnbull. “They bump into another vehicle, or a pedestrian, or lose control of their vehicle and crash into the ditch. Sometimes, that can have tragic results.”

To make everyone safer on the road, drivers are encouraged to walk, find another ride home like a taxi, or have a designated driver.

Keys Please is a professional designated driver service based out of Calgary, dedicated to getting people home safely, and with their own vehicles.

A call to Keys Please will dispatch two people to the location, and while one driver gets behind the wheel of the owner’s car, with as many guests that fit safely on board, the second driver follows behind to pick up his or her partner at the end of the line.

“The cost averages $12 to $15 more than what a one-way taxi fare would cost, but that takes you in your vehicle,” said Ginger Greenwood, general manager of Keys Please. “So you can drive down to your function and use our service afterwards, and your car will be there in the morning.”

The company has been operating in the Calgary area for 21 years, and now runs a fleet of 73 vehicles with more room to grow, she said. They serve the entire region, and have worked regularly in Okotoks, High River and area, she said.

Each fare is based on distance but not time, she said.

Keys Please operates from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, year-round.

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