Monday, August 27, 2012

Next phase of impaired driving legislation on track for September 1

Alberta takes another step toward safer roads for all Albertans with increases to existing administrative penalties for drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .05 to .08.

“We want to encourage drivers to plan ahead and make the right decisions for themselves, for their passengers and for other people on the road,” said Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver. “Since we passed this legislation last year, so many Albertans have already had these important conversations with their families and friends. We can all do something about preventable traffic collisions.”

Starting September 1, a person with a BAC between .05 and .08 found driving a motor vehicle will receive an immediate three-day licence suspension and a three-day vehicle seizure. Penalties increase with repeat offences.

Prior to these changes, since 1999, a driver with a BAC of .05 to .08 received a 24-hour licence suspension.

"This is 100 per cent about driver safety," said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. "Nobody has the right to drive drunk. Alberta's police will continue to enforce the existing rules and ensure drivers get to their destinations safe and sound."

“Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada welcomes the implementation of stronger .05 penalties and commends the Government of Alberta for its leadership in the effort to reduce impaired driving,” said MADD Canada National President Denise Dubyk. “Low blood alcohol content countermeasures have been proven to reduce alcohol-related crashes, deaths and injuries.”

“Our driving performance begins to deteriorate significantly at .05,” said Kathy Belton, Associate Director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research. “International research also tells us that penalties at .05 impact people’s behaviour across the board, even those at the highest alcohol levels.”

Ivonne Martinez, President, Alberta Liquor Store Association commented on the ongoing education efforts. “It is important to give Albertans the tools necessary so they understand what impairment means to them and they can plan ahead,” said Martinez. “Social responsibility is a key component of the Alberta Liquor Store Association mandate and our membership supports the efforts of the Alberta government to provide public education and awareness for drinking responsibly.”

The first phase of the legislation came into effect July 1. It involved tougher administrative penalties for drivers with over .08 BAC and for graduated licence drivers with any alcohol in their system.

Preliminary numbers show that, from July 1 to August 23, 994 licence suspensions and 632 vehicle seizures were issued to drivers over .08, and 114 licence suspensions and 73 vehicle seizures were issued to drivers with a graduated licence who had consumed alcohol. These numbers do not include all suspensions and seizures issued during this time period; final numbers will be available later this fall.

For those drivers who wish to contest the findings of an approved, scientifically calibrated breath-testing device and the corresponding administrative penalties, an appeal process is in place. At the roadside, a driver can request a second breath test from a second approved breath-testing device. Also, licence suspensions and vehicle seizures longer than three days may be appealed through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board, which is an independent quasi-judicial body.

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