In 2021, Alberta’s government worked to respond to rural crime and the safety concerns of Albertans by increasing the authority of Alberta Sheriffs. Now, the Sheriff Highway Patrol is able to investigate impaired driving and other criminal offences so that Albertans can feel safer when driving on the province’s highways.

In 2022, the Sheriff Highway Patrol removed 1,471 impaired drivers from provincial highways in its jurisdiction. Since the sheriffs’ authorities were expanded, a total of 2,224 impaired drivers have been removed from Alberta highways, or four every day.

“Enhancing the authorities of the Sheriff Highway Patrol has been a successful step toward building safer communities for everyone in Alberta. With more than 30,000 km 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.”

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

Prior to 2021, if a sheriff suspected a driver was impaired, they were required to turn the investigation over to the local police service – usually the RCMP–in most parts of rural Alberta.

In addition to making Alberta’s highways safer by immediately removing impaired drivers from the road, the work of Alberta Sheriffs to conduct impaired driving enforcement has saved the RCMP a considerable amount of investigative time and helped keep its patrol units on the road and able to respond to other offences.

Traffic violations and commercial vehicle safety

The Sheriff Highway Patrol’s enforcement priorities also include speeding, distracted driving and commercial vehicle safety. In 2022, sheriffs wrote 66,326 tickets related to offences in those areas and other traffic regulations.

Speeding can pose a significant threat to the safety of people on Alberta’s highways and nearly 25 per cent of fatal collisions in Alberta involve drivers exceeding the posted speed limit or travelling too fast for weather and road conditions. The risk only gets greater when extreme speed is involved – and sheriffs encountered several cases in 2022, including:

  • a 39-year-old woman driving 189 km/h in a 110 km/h zone on Highway 16 in Parkland County near Stony Plain. The woman was also impaired by alcohol.

  • a 20-year-old man driving 228 km/h in a 110 km/h zone on Highway 16 in Parkland County west of Edmonton.

  • a 25-year-old man riding his motorcycle at 203 km/h in a 100 km/h zone on Highway 21 outside of Sherwood Park.

  • a 33-year-old man driving 195 km/h in a 110 km/h zone on Highway 63 near Crow Lake. The man – who had a graduated driver’s licence requiring a zero alcohol reading – also failed a roadside breath test. Subsequent investigation also determined he was unlawfully at large and wanted for parole violations.

Commercial vehicle inspections

As part of its commercial vehicle enforcement mandate, the Sheriff Highway Patrol operates 17 vehicle inspection stations on major transportation routes and 24 mobile inspection stations in areas throughout the province. Since being given the authority to enforce impaired driving laws in July 2021, the Sheriff Highway Patrol has apprehended 80 commercial drivers exceeding Alberta's zero-tolerance standards for drug and alcohol use behind the wheel of commercial vehicles.

Commercial vehicle enforcement not only prevents collisions and other safety hazards, it also protects Alberta’s highway infrastructure from damage caused by overweight vehicles. For more information on commercial vehicle enforcement and the other services provided by Alberta Sheriffs, please visit the provincial law enforcement web page.