Montreal

'Tis the season...for roadblocks, provincial police warn

Police in Quebec are reminding you that it’s OK to drink and be merry this holiday season, as long as you don’t get behind the wheel.

During last year’s holiday operation, about 18 drivers suspected of impaired driving were arrested every day

A police officer pulls over a driver in Laval during Operation Vaccin, the holiday season's roadblock operation to crack down on impaired driving. (CBC)

Quebec police are reminding you that it's OK to drink and be merry this holiday season, as long as you don't get behind the wheel.

The Sûreté du Québec's annual roadblock operation kicked off Thursday night. Dubbed "Operation Vaccin," it will run until Jan. 3. They are working with regional and local police forces across the province.

"During the holiday season, people are travelling, they are going to see family but there's also some drinking. There's also office parties...and they aren't sure if they've taken a drink too many. We'll be out there and we'll be searching for people who are not abiding by the law," said SQ spokesperson Lt. Jason Allard.

"We have too many deaths a year and we need it to stop."

The operation involves setting up roadblocks and stopping drivers to check if they're sober.

"They will verify, is there any smell? How is your speech? Do you seem to be OK to drive or not? If they have any doubt, they'll pull you over and then they'll have sobriety tests."

More than 2,800 officers across Quebec are trained to detect if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (CBC)
During last year's operation, the SQ says an average of 18 people were arrested every day for impaired driving.

Throughout 2016, more than 140 people died in cases where a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Another 2,000 victims were injured.

"We want to be proactive. We are warning people that we are going to be out there," said Allard, adding the people have many options such as calling a taxi, or spending a night at a friend's. "No matter how uncomfortable your friend's couch is, it's a lot more comfortable than a jail cell."

Driver Nancy Travers was stopped Thursday night at a roadblock on Laval. She said it's an important police operation.

"When you don't do these things, then people start to abuse [the law]. I think these [roadblocks] are important to make sure people don't drink and drive."

Opération Nez Rouge also kicked off Thursday night. The volunteer service offers to drive people home in their own vehicles if they've had too much to drink.

The lines are open every night from 8 p.m. until 3 a.m. People can call 514-256-2510 or toll-free 1-866-DESJARDINS.

With files from CBC's Sarah Leavitt