Albertans are being reminded to celebrate safe and responsibly as the holiday season – and police’s busiest Checkstop season – gets underway.

RCMP and Alberta sheriffs in the Capital Region Integrated Traffic Unit are kicking off the Christmas season Checkstop program by conducting a joint-Checkstop Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday.

Officers are hoping the night’s Checkstop campaign kickoff sends a clear message.

“Checkstops are very, very important in the fight against impaired driving,” said Greg Schmidt, provincial co-ordinator for Alberta’s Students Against Drinking and Driving Association (SADD).

“It really reminds people that they can’t get away with it. It also helps keep our roads safe.

RCMP say on any given night, one in 33 drivers on Canadian roads are impaired.

The age group most-likely to have been drinking before a crash is men aged 18 to 24, a group SADD often targets with their message.

“We give them those statistics so it kind of opens up their eyes and they seem to think a little more but what’s been really surprising in recent years is we’ve started to see the female rate start to climb up,” Schmidt said.

And it’s something that could easily be avoided.

“Plan before your party,” Schmidt said.

“It’s such an easy step to be able to do that and to have lots of organizations, especially with Christmas parties, they’re a lot more aware of it, they provide safe rides home, they provide taxi cab vouchers. Plan before they drink and before they go out, not just at Christmastime but in general as well.”

This holiday season police also have a new tool to work with: tougher impaired driving legislation.

Officers can suspend a person’s license if they’re caught with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.05.

It’s a consequence some groups like Operation Red Nose, hope to help Albertans avoid.

Although Operation Red Nose has closed in Edmonton, the program is busier than ever in Fort Saskatchewan, and along with getting people home safely, volunteers are also helping at checkstops to spread their message of alternatives to drinking and driving.

“We have actually cut way back on impaired driving charges in Fort Saskatchewan on the nights that we're working,” said Stew Hennig, president of the Fort Saskatchewan Rotary Club.

“It’s just to make a presence and let people know there is an alternative to driving after you've been drinking.”

Fort Saskatchewan’s Operation Red Nose runs the last weekend of November and every weekend in December, along with New Year’s Eve.

The program offers people rides for free so they don’t end up driving impaired.

“Dozens and dozens of folks that they would normally get that they would get a warning, they just don’t see them because we’re driving them home,” Hennig said.

In Alberta, one in five drivers involved in fatal crashes were drinking prior to the collision.

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada.

Edmonton police are expected to kick off their holiday checkstop campaigns next weekend, but as with RCMP, checkstops are conducted year-round.

With files from Breanna Karstens-Smith