Tougher drinking and driving penalties coming into effect
Starting next month, tougher punishments will be enforced to those caught drinking and driving in an attempt to curb or eliminate the amount of accidents involving impaired drivers.
According to a press release from the Alberta Ministry of Transportation, 96 people in Alberta were killed as a result of alcohol-related collisions in 2010, with another 1,384 injured. The new penalties will “try to make all of the roads for all Albertans safer,” said Parker Hogan, the press secretary for the minister.
The changes to the drinking and driving penalties will be introduced in two phases with the first taking place next month, which affects drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08 as well as new drivers and those with a graduated license.
Drivers caught with a BAC over .08 will be charged under the Criminal Code, per usual, and also receive an immediate license suspension that will remain in place until the criminal charge is resolved. The vehicle will be seized and if convicted, the driver will be required to use an ignition interlock device.
One conviction will require the driver to use the device for a full year. A second conviction will require three years and a third conviction five years of using the interlock device.
With previous penalties, drivers were given a 24-hour license suspension followed by a 21-day grace period and then a 90-day license suspension, the press release noted. After the suspension, drivers were allowed to continue driving while awaiting trial.
“People continue to drive when they are over .08. We need a more effective way to change that behaviour,” said Alberta Transportation Minister, Ric Mclver. “These penalties are about making sure that all of us feel more secure when we go out on Alberta’s roadways.”
For new drivers or those with a graduated license, the penalty for consuming any alcohol and driving will be a 30-day license suspension and seven-day vehicle seizure. Graduated license drivers must then remain in the program until they have reached one year of suspension-free driving.
“The penalties, combined with the continued great work of our enforcement partners across the province, will reduce the needless deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers,” said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
The second phase, which starts in September, will affect those caught driving with a BAC of .05 to .08. For the first offence, drivers will lose their license and have their vehicle seized for three days. Second offense will result in a 15-day license suspension, seven-day vehicle seizure and the completion of the “Planning Ahead” course.
A third offence will be a 30-day license suspension, seven-day vehicle seizure and completion of the “impact” course. The third punishment applies to new drivers who have any blood alcohol level.
To inform Albertans, Hogan said a public awareness campaign kicked off last week and will run throughout the summer that includes radio, newspaper and online advertisements.
In addition to the government’s campaign, MADD Canada has teamed up with RTL-Westcan to include a photo of Michael Knox on its transport trucks to act as a reminder not to drink and drive.
Knox was killed in October 1999 when a drunk driver near St. Paul struck the vehicle he was driving. Knox was the designated driver for a group of friends. He was 16-years-old.
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