On April 9, 2018, new impaired driving laws came into effect in Alberta that all drivers should be made aware of. According to the Government of Alberta, these laws have been put in place to set time limits for licence suspensions as well as prepare the province for the legalization of marijuana. The third reading of the federal Cannabis Act – currently before Senate – will occur no later than June 7, 2018, and will almost assuredly result in the ability to legally produce and sell regulated and quality-controlled cannabis in an effort to keep organized crime from continuing to profit off of the market.
Provinces have advised the federal government they will need from eight to 12 weeks after Royal Assent for the Cannabis Act in order to adapt. The province’s new impaired driving laws mark a first step in that process, although drivers should expect some additional changes to come with regards to consuming cannabis and getting behind the wheel. Remember, as of right now, although it has been decriminalized, unless you have a prescription the use of marijuana is still illegal.
What Happened on April 9?
Alterations to the previous impaired driving legislation came about because of a decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal in May 2017 that ruled the indefinite suspension of licences until court dates to be unconstitutional.
According to the Alberta government’s website, the two major changes that were implemented April 9 are:
- There will be zero-tolerance for cannabis or any illegal drugs in the systems of graduated drivers licence (GDL) vehicle operators. There is already zero tolerance for alcohol.
- Criminally impaired drivers will face an immediate 90-day suspension of their licence and immediate three-day seizure of their vehicle. They will also be required to take part in a one-year ignition interlock program as well as mandatory remedial education
Penalties are high for GDL drivers who are found to have violated the law. Driving under the influence of marijuana is now considered the same as driving under the influence of alcohol, and can seriously jeopardize chances of becoming fully licenced. If found to have any alcohol or drugs in their systems, GDL drivers will be subject to an immediate 30-day licence suspension, a seven-day seizure of their vehicle and be required to remain in the GDL program for two years, with at least one year of suspension-free driving.
What’s the Difference Between Criminally Impaired and Impaired?
A non-GDL driver who is caught operating a vehicle with an alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.08 is technically a non-criminally impaired driver. They cannot be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada, but are subject to immediate and severe penalties, which increase with repeat offences.
From the Transportation Alberta website, non-criminally impaired drivers face the following consequences:
- 1st offence – Immediate 3-day Driver’s Licence Suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure.
- 2nd offence – Immediate 15-day Driver’s Licence Suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, and completion of the “Planning Ahead” Course.
- 3rd offence – Immediate 30-day Driver’s Licence Suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, and completion of the “IMPACT” Program.
Criminally impaired drivers face the following penalties:
- 1st Criminal Code (Canada) Conviction: Driver’s Licence Suspension, completion of the “Planning Ahead” Course, and 1 year of Mandatory Ignition Interlock Program Participation.
- 2nd Criminal Code (Canada) Conviction: Driver’s Licence Suspension, completion of the “IMPACT” Program, and 3 years of Mandatory Ignition Interlock Program Participation.
- 3rd or Subsequent Criminal Code (Canada) Conviction: Driver’s Licence Suspension, completion of the “IMPACT” Program, and 5 years of Mandatory Ignition Interlock Program Participation.
How Much is “Too Much?”
At Lane’s Insurance, we do not advocate for the consumption of any drugs or alcohol before driving. Considered a serious health epidemic, according to Breathalyzer.ca an average of 1,500 Canadians are killed and 63,000 injured due to the actions of drunk drivers annually. The best kinds of drivers are completely sober, not distracted, and take their responsibilities behind the wheel seriously.
That said, it’s important to thoroughly understand your limits. Here are some loose guidelines around how the consumption of alcohol can show up breath tests. Since everyone is different, however, these cannot be taken as a rule, directive or instruction. These are only estimates. Be reminded that intoxication starts the second you take your first sip of alcohol, and that it takes about a half an hour for alcohol to be absorbed into the system on an empty stomach and 90 minutes on a full stomach.
Based on one drink equalling 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, five ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer:
- A person weighing 120 pounds will have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.054 after two drinks, making them impaired. Three drinks will place them at 0.081, making them criminally impaired.
- A person weighing 160 pounds will have a BAC of 0.060 after three drinks, and be criminally impaired with a BAC of 0.080 after four drinks.
- A person weighing 200 pounds will have a BAC of 0.048 (which will be rounded up) after three drinks, and be criminally impaired with a BAC of 0.080 after five drinks.
Again, we at Lane’s advise zero consumption of drugs or alcohol before operating a vehicle. Please, don’t drink and drive.
Impaired Driving and Your Car Insurance
Not only does an impaired driving conviction result in a criminal record, it also results in difficulty getting car insurance in Alberta. Drivers who have been convicted of serious offences are considered “high risk,” making car insurance coverage prohibitively expensive for many.
If you are considered a high-risk driver, you may find it difficult to purchase insurance directly from an insurance company. In that situation, your best bet is to work with an independent Alberta insurance broker like us at Lane’s, who have the ability to work with multiple companies and shop around for coverage on your behalf.
Brokers may be able to negotiate coverage that may not otherwise have been offered to you. Insurance brokers work for you, not for insurance companies, so both you and your broker have shared interests when it comes to finding you the best car insurance available. Contact us at 403.264.8171 today.