In addition to the new provincial drunk driving laws that came into effect in Alberta in April, all drivers should be aware of federal legislation coming in to effect on Dec. 18, when Bill C-46 will become law.
Just in time for the holidays, Bill C-46 is intended to further curb instances of drinking and driving. The legislation allows law enforcement personnel to demand a breath sample from anyone they stop, even if drinking and driving is not suspected.
Currently, officers in Alberta must have reason to request a breathalyzer after lawfully stopping a driver at a Check Stop or for poor driving such as weaving in lanes, speeding (or driving too slowly), and ignoring signage and lights, or causing an accident. At that time they may make note of cues such as red eyes, driving with the window open in inclement weather, slurring of words, and, of course, the smell of alcohol. They will also ask if you have consumed any alcohol, which is a question to which they often receive a dishonest answer.
Starting Dec. 18, police will not be required to note any of these indicators or ask any questions before asking for a breath test, however they will still have to make a lawful stop. The legislation will simply make it easier for police to administer a breath test, allowing them to not have to rely solely on their own observations and judgment, which can be difficult to argue.
The initial breath sample will not be admissible in court, but will determine if further testing is needed. Those who pass will be free to go on their way. Those who fail will be advised of their right to legal counsel before being requested to provide a further breath sample, which will then be admissible in court.
MADD Canada is extremely supportive of Bill C-46, and lobbied hard for its passing. They believe it will significantly decrease impaired driving and related accidents, injuries and deaths, saying that the mandatory alcohol screening measures will reduce impairment-related crash deaths and injuries by an estimated 20%. That will result in approximately 200 lives saved and more than 12,000 injuries prevented each year. Their article, “Why Mandatory Roadside Breath Screening?” states, “Forty-five years of research in numerous countries has established that (mandatory alcohol screening) dramatically reduces impaired driving and crash deaths. For example, personal injury crashes involving a drunk driver decreased 56% in Sweden following the introduction of (mandatory alcohol screening) in 1970.”
Drunk Driving Statistics in Canada
Impaired driving statistics for 2015 provided by Statistics Canada provide a sobering perspective on just how bad the problem is in Canada. In that year, police recorded 72,039 impaired driving incidents. Out of those, 122 were cases of impaired driving causing death and 596 were impaired driving causing bodily harm. Although drunk driving rates have dropped significantly (approximately 65%) since 1986, when data was first recorded, Canada still has one of the highest drunk driving rates among developed nations. In 2015, Alberta had the second-highest rate of drunk driving among the provinces, at 314 incidences per 100,000 people. Saskatchewan had the highest, at 575 per 100,000 people.
Penalties for Drunk Driving in Alberta
A fully-licensed 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 (those with a blood alcohol level of over 0.08) 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.
Cannabis and Driving
Drug-impaired driving instances have been rising, while drunk driving instances have been lowering. This is cause for great concern. Statistics Canada states that, “Drug-impaired driving rose from 2% of all impaired driving incidents in 2009 to 4% in 2015.”
The legalization of cannabis in Canada has resulted in more clear laws around its consumption and driving. Find out what you need to know about cannabis and driving here.
High-Risk Car Insurance
Those with an impaired driving conviction are determined high-risk by car insurance companies. It doesn’t matter whether or not you were involved in an accident as the result of drinking and driving; a simple arrest or a single conviction will be enough for most insurance companies to drop you as a client. As insurance brokers, we are able to find high-risk car insurance for those who need it, however it will be costly. There is no avoiding this. If you’re struggling to find an insurance company that will cover you, contact a Lane’s Insurance representative.