Tougher Impaired Driving Laws in Alberta Have Paid Off

Friday, November 29, 2013

Alcohol DrinkOne of the world's most well-known and respected charitable organizations is calling on Saskatchewan to look toward Alberta as an example of what types of legislative actions lead to measurable improvements regarding impaired driving levels.

According to the government of Saskatchewan, the legislature is considering new penalties for drivers found to have a blood-alcohol content in excess of 0.08 percent - particularly for those whose BACs are higher than than 0.16 percent - as well as tougher sanctions on young drivers who are found to be drunk while driving.

However, what isn't addressed in the proposed legislation is what to do for motorists whose BACs are within the warning range, specifically between 0.04 percent and 0.08 percent.

This is the issue that MADD Canada finds fault with.

"By ignoring their own Traffic Safety Committee's recommendation to strengthen warn range sanctions, the Government of Saskatchewan is ignoring an important impaired driving countermeasure that would go a long way to reducing crashes, deaths and injuries in this province," said Louise Twerdy, manager of chapter services for MADD Canada's Western Region.

What Saskatchewan ought to do, Twerdy advised, is follow the example of Alberta, which now suspends drivers of their licenses for three days if they have a BAC in the warning range, including having their vehicle impounded. Since these sanctions have gone into effect, alcohol-related fatalities among motorists have fallen by nearly 50 percent.

Highest rate of drunk driving in Alberta two years ago

Alberta has come a long way in the effort to make drunk driving less common on the provinces back roads and highways. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released a study, which found that in 2011, Alberta had the highest rate of impaired driving in the country - 70 percent higher than the national average. Causing many car insurance claims, there were approximately 450 impaired driving incidents for every 100,000 people in the study period versus the national average of 262 per 100,000.

Since 1986, there has been a steady decline in the frequency of impaired driving accidents in Canada. However, more recent numbers show a slight uptick, as police reported nearly 90,300 incidents in 2011, up more than 3,000 from 2010, according to Statistics Canada.

"Effective changes to Saskatchewan's impaired driving laws are crucial," said Twerdy. "Based on MADD Canada's review of impaired driving rates across Canada, Saskatchewan has the highest per capita rate of alcohol-related road crash deaths among the provinces."

She added that close to 10 people in every 100,000 dies as a result of drunken driving in the province, more than three times higher than the national average of three per 100,000 population.

MADD Canada is an advocate of making ignition interlocks mandatory for all drivers convicted of an impaired driving offense, even if their BAC is only modestly above the limit. Saskatchewan has proposed this mandate but only for individuals found guilty of having a BAC above 0.16 percent.