Alberta eyes possible tougher impaired driving sanctions

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Alberta may soon have tougher impaired driving laws in line with ones currently in place in British Columbia where the province has seen a 50-per-cent decrease in alcohol-related fatal crashes.

B.C. instituted their tougher legislation last year and when B.C. premier Christy Clark visited the province last week, Premier Alison Redford said the regulations might make sense here.

Under B.C.’s laws, drivers who are either caught with a blood alcohol over the legal limit of 0.08 or who refuse to provide a sample can have their licence suspended for 90 days, their car impounded for 30 days and could face an additional $500 fine.

All of that is in addition to the criminal charges they might face.

The province also has legislation for drivers caught with lower blood alcohol levels between 0.05 and 0.08, which is considered a cautionary range under criminal law.

B.C. drivers found with that level of alcohol in their system face a three-day driving ban and a $200 fine. If they are caught a second time within five years it rises to a seven-day driving ban and a $300 fine and third occurrence will land a driver with a 30-day ban and $400 fine.

Alberta law currently allows for a 24-hour suspension if drivers are caught in that range, but there is no fine attached and while there are license suspensions for being found above 0.08 it is not immediate and vehicles aren’t impounded for 30 days.

Earlier this week Redford said she is optimistic something similar could be brought to Alberta.

“I think it is important to set the tone there is no doubt that I think younger generations understand the important of designated driving and responsible drinking.”

Transport minister Ray Danyluk said he is intrigued by the work B.C. has done, but he is not looking simply to clone their efforts.

“We are open to everything, but yes we are looking at B.C.’s model,” he said. “I think we need to look at everything. I think we need to make sure our highways are safe.”

Danyluk said that might include administrative penalties, it might include changes to the province’s graduated licensing system and it might include other ideas from other provinces.

He said caucus discussed the issue earlier this week and they have been told to take that discussion back to their constituents. He said it is possible that the legislation could be put in front of the fall session of the legislature, but the legislation also has to be right.

“We have to move quickly, but we have to make sure we do it right.”

Local RCMP detachment commander Insp. Warren Dosko, said the B.C. results are certainly positive and new legislation might help with a problem that stubbornly refuses to go away.

“We still have a propensity for impaired driving here, so there is still a lot of room for decreases.”

Dosko said alcohol is often a contributor in fatal crashes and anything that might decrease that would be helpful.

“We know that there is still an amount of fatal, alcohol-related crashes and if there is going to be some new legislation that would target those people, that would be welcome.”

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