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Winnipeggers can once again expect a larger police presence in the city during the month of December.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) announced the beginning of its annual Festive Season Checkstop Program today.

Police send officers out on the road during the last month of the year specifically to enforce impaired driving legislation, as the holiday season often sees a spike in drunk drivers.  

“The stats are pretty clear,” said impaired driving countermeasures co-ordinator Const. Stephane Fontaine. “Approximately a third of fatal crashes are directly a result of impaired driving. That represents a lot of people getting hurt and a lot of families being devastated.”

Fontaine said police continue the Festive Season Checkstop Program every year to hammer home the message that people have no reason to get behind the wheel after they’ve had a few drinks.

“Impaired driving continues to be the number one criminal cause of death in Canada,” Fontaine said. “There should be no fatalities for something that’s 100 per cent preventable.”  

During last year’s checkstop program, police stopped 4,472 vehicles, administered 168 Approved Screening Device tests. Police issued 27 warnings and charged 46 people with impaired driving or refusing a breathalyser, according to police numbers. 

In January 2018, the WPS will release the names of people charged during the Festive Checkstop Program. Winnipeg police nabbed 45 people in December 2016.

Fontaine says people have a lot of reasons for not drinking and driving, including not wanting their names published, not wanting to pay fines or have their licence suspended and not having a criminal record.

But Fontaine says none of those should be the main reason.

“The most important reason not to do it is the chance of you devastating another innocent family and turning their life upside down because of your choice,” Fontaine said. ”You truly hold people’s lives in your hands when you choose to drive under the influence.”