RCMP across Manitoba will begin their holiday checkstop program Sunday, December 1st. Sergeant Paul Manaigre says the intent is to keep highways safe as people participate in various holiday festivities over the coming month.

"We engage in checkstops here and there in a scattered approach as officers flood certain areas. We are targeting impaired drivers first. But we are also looking for other high-risk behaviours like cell phone use, seatbelts and speeding, anything that we believe could contribute to collisions that could possibly take lives.

Manaigre adds that on December 16th, stiffer penalties will come into effect including significant fines for motorists who blow a warning on roadside breathalyzer units. Police will also be able to impound the vehicles of drivers who have a blood-alcohol level above .05.

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen says adding up all the administrative sanctions and monetary penalties, the minimum cost for a ‘warn’ will range from $700 for a first violation to $3,420 for a third or subsequent violation. The minimum cost for a ‘fail’ will be $3,520 and the minimum cost for refusal of the approved screening device will be $3,970.

Cullen notes the immediate roadside prohibition approach was implemented in British Columbia in 2010. It has been credited with helping to save 351 lives and reduced alcohol-related deaths by 50 per cent in that province. It has had a similar impact on alcohol-related injuries and collisions. This model is strongly supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada.

During holiday checkstops last year, RCMP in Manitoba pulled over more than 11,700 vehicles during 262 checkstops that resulted in 105 people charged with Criminal Code Impaired Driving offences and 30 roadside suspensions. Five people lost their lives in traffic related collisions.