Stronger enforcement focus needed along with new law
| Posted: Saturday, Jun 30, 2012 06:00 am
This Canada Day long weekend will see the beginning of the province’s new harsher impaired driving penalties and, says Transportation Minister Ric McIver, Albertans need to take this seriously.
The vast majority of Alberta drivers will take it seriously. Most of them already are, although this law – similar to one in British Columbia – could be ripe for a constitutional challenge.
The new Alberta law allows police to issue an automatic licence suspension that remains in effect until the case is resolved and to seize the vehicle of any driver with a blood alcohol level above 0.08.
The B.C. law introduced in 2010 was struck down last fall by a B.C. Supreme Court judge who ruled sections of it were unconstitutional because they allowed police to issue criminal-like penalties without a proper appeal process. Alberta’s law does have an appeal process, similar to the amended law B.C. introduced this spring, but legal critics aren’t sure they’ll survive any longer than the previous one.
However, no matter what laws are brought in, there are other long-term factors at play. Specifically, how serious police will remain over the long run in enforcing this new law.
If history is followed, odds are there will be the usual heavy blitz of police presence and crackdowns for the next several weekends and through the summer months. But chances are police will stick with enforcing this law about as well as they have many others.
Like, for example, those dealing with window tinting and distracted driving.
Laws dealing with both have been in place for decades. What old-timer doesn’t remember the “driving without due care and attention” section that was drummed into their heads when taking driving tests back in the 1960s and ’70s?
Yet, because enforcement of both laws became lax over the years, government had to waste time and money bringing in the distracted driving law last September to deal specifically with cellphone usage. There was the immediate crackdown by police all over the province.
Yet, just 10 months later, it seems like the number of drivers with cellphones stuck in their ears, or being held below the window level so they can text, is as bad as it was before this law was brought in.
Same with tinted windows. It’s against the law in Alberta to install, replace or cover the window glazing in a windshield or a front side window with a transparent, translucent or opaque material.
Different police detachments have conducted tinted window crackdowns this summer and it’s been surprising how many infractions they’re finding. In Vegreville a three-day check in mid-June resulted in 13 people being charged with illegally tinted windows. Imagine how many thousands there must be driving the roads of Alberta.
The point is, the law was always there to deal with these issues, police just weren’t enforcing it.
So let’s hope, assuming this new impaired driving law withstands the legal challenges it will face, that the police don’t let it slide off their radar like they did with tinted window and careless driving.