Tighter penalties introduced to combat impaired driving

Province announces first phase of changes to penalties effective July 1

Impaired drivers will face tougher penalties starting July 1.

The province has announced changes to drinking and driving penalties this week, which will be introduced in phases over the summer.

“It’s about reinforcing in the minds of Albertans that they need to take this seriously. They can go out and have a good time, but they have to do so responsibly,” said Ric McIvor, minister of transportation. “Traffic safety is on everybody’s mind.

“People continue to drive when they are over .08,” said McIver. “These penalties are about making sure that all of us feel more secure when we go out on Alberta’s roadways.”

A driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08 will be charged under the Criminal Code, just as before.

In addition, beginning July 1, the driver will receive an immediate license suspension which remains in place until the criminal charge is resolved. The driver’s vehicle will also be seized.

Once convicted, a driver will be required to use an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device is an instrument installed in a vehicle that measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath. If the device detects alcohol, it will not allow the person to start the vehicle.

A driver will be required to pay for the device’s installation, removal and a monthly or bi-monthly rental fee. There is also a fee for the application and for the restricted operator’s license. The driver will also be required to pay the cost of a remedial course.

A second conviction will see a mandatory use of an ignition interlock device for three years. Third and subsequent convictions will see mandatory use of ignition interlock devices for five years.

Previously, these individuals received a 24-hour license suspension, followed by a 21-day grace period and a 90-day license suspension. After the suspension was over, they were allowed to continue driving while awaiting their trial – potentially putting others at risk by drinking and driving again.

Starting July 1, as an added penalty, their licenses are immediately suspended and remain suspended until their charges are resolved.

“The focus of this legislation is on changing behaviours particularly with repeat offenders.”

The new penalties will also affect those with graduated licenses who choose to drink and drive. Beginning July 1, these drivers will receive an immediate 30-day license suspension and seven-day vehicle seizure – even if it’s someone else’s car.

Each time a graduated license driver is caught, an additional year will be added to their graduated license as well, he said. “If they develop good habits early on, we believe they will be good drivers for life.”

McIvor said a public education and awareness campaign has been launched and will run throughout the summer. He said the announcement is also coming at a critical time before the coming long weekend, when increased numbers of impaired drivers tend to hit the road.

He added the campaign will use radio, newspaper and online advertising as well as a web site that can be accessed at www.knowthelimits.ca.

“While the limits haven’t changed, the penalties have. Impaired driving is an important safety discussion in Alberta and we want to ensure that people have the facts.”

From 2006 to 2010, 569 people were killed and 8,530 people were injured in collisions in Alberta involving drunk drivers.