Despite public education campaigns and widespread carnage on the province's public roadways in recent years, impaired drivers continue to threaten the well-being of innocent Albertans.
According to statistics released by the provincial government last week, 2022 saw almost 1,500 impaired drivers stopped and charged by Alberta sheriffs, including in Mountain View and Red Deer counties.
Specifically, sheriffs removed 1,471 impaired drivers from provincial roadways over the past 12 months, with more than 2,200 motorists taken off Alberta highways and streets since sheriff authority was expanded in 2021 to allow officers to investigate impaired driving.
Mike Ellis, minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, says adding sheriffs to the impaired driving fight has been worthwhile.
“Enhancing the authorities of the Sheriff Highway Patrol has been a successful step toward building safer communities for everyone in Alberta,” said Ellis. “With more than 30,000 kilometres of provincial highways in their jurisdiction, the sheriffs have done tremendous work by removing more than 2,000 impaired drivers from our roads in less than two years.
“Expanding the sheriffs’ authorities has alleviated pressure for policing in rural Alberta, giving those officers more time to respond to urgent calls and provide the flexibility to keep our communities safer.”
As Ellis rightly says, Alberta sheriffs should be commended and thanked for their new and ongoing efforts to target impaired drivers.
With the number of drunk drivers caught by police and sheriffs representing only a small portion of total offenders, the latest crime statistics highlight a serious and ongoing threat to public safety in both urban and rural communities.
Along with health care and cost-of-living issues, meaningful discussion of impaired driving should be a part of the 2023 provincial election campaign and something all successful candidates should make a priority going forward.
Hopefully knowing that the impaired driving fight now includes the efforts of Alberta’s sheriffs – who have clearly shown they are fully capable of removing drunks from the province’s roadways – will help deter anyone considering getting behind the wheel after overindulging.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.