Canada’s new impaired driving laws started Tuesday giving police new enforcement powers when it comes to dealing with drivers.
Changes to both drug and alcohol impaired driving come as part of the former Bill C-46, which aim to make Canada’s laws some of the strongest in the world.
1. Mandatory Alcohol Screening
Police officers now have the authority to demand breathalyzer tests from any driver they pull over. Previously, officers could only test drivers if they had a reasonable suspicion the person was impaired. Any driver who refuses to take the test can be charged.
These stronger laws are similar to ones in several other countries around the world. In Ireland, mandatory screening reduced the number of road deaths by about 40 per cent in the first four years it was enforced.
2. Bolus Drinking Defence
Before Dec. 18, drivers could use something called the “bolus drinking defence,” arguing that they consumed alcohol just before driving and it was not absorbed yet.
The new law eliminates this defence, by making it illegal to be at or over the alcohol limit within two hours of being behind the wheel.
3. Penalty Updates
The new law increases the maximum penalties for many alcohol-impaired driving offences.
Formerly, the mandatory minimum fines were: $1,000 for first offence, 30 days imprisonment for second offence, and 120 days in jail for a third offence.
These are the penalties now:
First offence, with blood alcohol content of 80-119 mg: mandatory minimum $1,000 fine
First offence, with blood alcohol content of 120-159 mg: mandatory minimum $1,500 fine
First offence, with blood alcohol content of 160 mg or more: mandatory minimum $2,500 fine
First offence, but refuse to be tested: mandatory minimum $2,000 fine
Second offence: mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment
Third or more offence: mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment
Maximum penalties for impaired driving causing no bodily harm or death: summary conviction carries two years less a day imprisonment, indictment carries 10 years imprisonment
Maximum penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm: Summary conviction for less severe injuries carries two years less a day imprisonment, indictment carries 14 years imprisonment
Maximum penalty impaired driving causing death: life imprisonment
4. Impaired Driving Statistics
Last year, there were more than 69,000 police-reported impaired-driving incidents — about 3,500 were related to drugs.
In 2016, there were more than 70,000 such incidents, and 3,000 were drug-related.
According to federal statistics, an average of almost four people die in Canada daily due to impaired driving.
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