New impaired driving laws to kick in on Canada Day
Tougher sanctions for criminally charged drivers coming for long weekend
By: By Ryan Tumilty
| Posted: Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 06:00 am
Alberta’s new impaired driving laws will hit the streets in time for the Canada Day long weekend.
The first of two parts of the new law, with higher sanctions for those with a blood alcohol that meets the criminal standard, will kick in on the holiday long weekend.
Those sanctions include immediate license suspensions and vehicle seizures for up to 30 days for repeat offenders.
“It is about reinforcing in the minds of Albertans that they need to take this seriously,” said Transportation Minister Ric McIver as he kicked off an ad campaign for the new rules.
The province is spending $350,000 to remind Albertans about the new rules.
Currently, there are two levels of sanctions for impaired driving. Criminal charges kick in when a driver has a blood alcohol over 0.08 milligrams. Those criminal charges can result in fines, license suspension and even jail time for repeat offenders.
At a lower level, between 0.08 and 0.05, drivers can have their license suspended for up to 24 hours, but they don't face criminal charges.
New legislation the government passed last fall will change both sets of sanctions, but only the tougher sanctions for criminal level blood alcohol concentrations will kick in on Canada Day.
“The legislation is intended to get at one of the most preventable causes of collisions that take place – impaired driving,” said McIver.
Under current rules, drivers charged with impaired driving are given a 90-day driving suspension before their trial, but that suspension will now last until their criminal charges are resolved.
Drivers are also given a 21-day grace period to get their lives in order, but the suspension will now be immediate. Alberta will be the first province in the country to impose an immediate sanction.
New drivers also face tougher rules on Canada Day, with a zero tolerance approach to alcohol and an immediate seven-day vehicle seizure and 30-day license suspension for driving with any alcohol in their system.
McIver said drivers will have the right to two separate breathalyzer tests on two separate machines and will have to face the consequences.
“At that point the person with the high blood alcohol content should have considered that before taking the wheel,” he said.
Higher sanctions for drivers with lower blood alcohol concentrations will come into force on the Labour Day weekend.
While these drivers will still not face criminal sanctions, they will face a three-day suspension and a three-day vehicle seizure. Those suspensions and seizures will rise for repeat offenders, with a maximum of a 30-day suspension and seven day seizure.
Local police plan to be out in force over the Canada Day weekend, but Cpl. Don Murray, head of the St. Albert detachment’s traffic unit, said that is standard procedure and has nothing to do with the new law.
“It is not going to change how we do our everyday duties,” he said.
Murray said impaired driving is a scourge and he is happy to have any other deterrent.
“Any deterrent is good. It is a serious perpetual problem that never seems to go away.”