Friday 1 May 2009

Drinking & Driving laws in Ontario

While some may think this post better belongs in My Reflections & Musings blog, I believe that the party attitude of cottage country needs an alignment. I have blogged a few times here about the tragic accidents that continue to occur, many due to drinking and driving and speed. Many seasonal visitors feel they are up here for R & R. Others, full time residents with no options for public transportation, must drive. For those in the north many must drive long distances to work. This concerns me.

It concerns our OPP, too. I regularly see RIDE stops as they check for drunk drivers, and often see the charges laid, as they have these people step out of their cars a half block down from the beer store. But too many get away with this. Read more details about real people with real stories at The Drunk Driving Masses. They state: "Health Canada estimates that 1690 Canadians die and 74,000 are injured each year."

Our new legislation: if your blood alcohol level is between 0.05 and 0.08, called the 'warn range', will have a three-day licence suspension. Over the limit and the car is impounded. Full details are here on the Government of Ontario logo government site.

The Ministry's newswire states that we are making progress: over the last 10 years traffic fatalities have dropped 20%, despite an increase of licenced drivers of 20%. Our street racing laws (more than

If you are convicted of a drunk driving offence in Canada, the penalties are serious:

  • Minimum one-year driving prohibition;
  • Fine ranging from $600 to $2000;
  • Ignition interlock for at least one year (rental cost about $1200 annually);
  • Mandatory attendance at a remedial program at a cost of about $500 prior to licence reinstatement; and
  • A criminal record.
For those with licence is suspensions this has a huge impact on both care insurance (double?), when premiums come around for renewal, as well as life insurance, which can be totally denied.
What strikes me is that those who continue to drink and drive, without a licence and, potentially, without insurance will be those who have a serious impact on us and can turn us from not only victims but affect our physical and financial health.

I found some US-based stats, which can be extrapolated to Canada:

  • "Between 60% and 80% of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive." - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US)
  • "14% of all intoxicated drivers in fatal crashes have a current suspended or revoked license." - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(US).
  • "Half of all convicted drunken drivers who lose licenses don't reapply when they become eligible." - National Public Service Research Institute. (US)
In an article by MADD, they say, "Matt Brownlee, who served seven years for drunk driving causing the deaths of Linda LeBreton-Holmes and her 12-year-old son, Brian, in suburban Ottawa was again charged this month with drunk driving and driving without a licence."

I lived in the area at the time, and friends and neighbours knew his licence was suspended, it was in all the papers, yet he continued to drive. This kind of addiction cannot be changed without interventions. We know that addicts will drive. We need better and more stringent requirements. Perhaps a data base with the licence plates of those with driving licence suspensions. We cannot continue to allow such people on the roads. Friends and family must become involved. It is society's issue. Drinking and driving is a social behaviour, especially on holidays, or in summer. Surely, we can all be more vigilant. This behaviour must be reported.

On-line, lawyers brag about getting drunk driving charges dropped. See: Man Charged With Impaired Driving of an ATV . This testimonial exacerbates this problem. I cannot see the ethical and moral reasoning in celebrating this issue. The testimonial (left sidebar) by this drunk celebrates the fact that he got off the charge. The OPP must be so frustrated. Let's give them some help. Take their keys, car pool, sleep over.


CS said...

The new laws effectively state that you are guilty, no trial and no appeal. The police officer is judge jury and executioner. It is unconstitutional, is a violation of our fundamental rights, and I cannot see how any intelligent person could support them. You must not be a very intelligent person.

Jenn Jilks said...

That is the funniest comment I have ever had. I could not but help post it. Perhaps I am not very intelligent, but I would rather we kept drunk drivers off the road than on! It is a simple means by which a police officer judges if one is drunk or sober. That isn't rocket science.

I do not believe, as you stated in your comment, that the police officer actually executes the drunk driver. But I could be wrong. They simply removes the incapacitated driver from their car and our roads, and puts them in a safer place! It works for me.

No one has a 'fundamental right' to drive. You must not be intelligent enough to grasp that concept. Driving is a privilege, with rules that must be followed. You earn the right to drive. It is my constitutional right to drive safely, without having to avoid drunk drivers.
Methinks my commenter doth protest too much!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so no one is getting executed. Our community has just witnessed a fatality that has taken the lives of two young men under thirty, who were severely impaired. Changing the laws did't change these young men's attitudes. It did change the attitudes of law abiding diners who are terrified to have a second glass of wine over a two hour dinner that will not result in impairment as per our Smart Serve system. Restaurants are suffering and our knee jerk solution to this issue is changing the way we entertain ourselves. This change does nothing to solve the problem and paints all of us with a wide brush.

Peter B said...

@CS - Unconstitutional? You betray your ignorance, as last time I looked, Canada certainly has these powers under our Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

Let me quote you the very 1st section of it, ok?:

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Now, what this means, and what this allows for, thank heavens, is that limitations can be placed on rights, if they are motivated by an objective of sufficient importance.

Saving lives which are being snuffed out or maimed by impaired drivers seems like a sufficient objective.

The test for this objective is known in legal circles as the "Oakes test", and basically it sets out conditions whereby the other rights in our Charter can be limited.

The considerations for the Oakes test is as follows:

1.There must be a pressing and substantial objective

2.The means must be proportional

1.The means must be rationally connected to the objective

2.There must be minimal impairment of rights

3.There must be proportionality between the infringement and objective

This is what allows the RIDE program which stops you and asks you whether you've been drinking.

As for the .05 administrative level in Ontario, its always been there, but now you want to grumble about it because thev've finally put some teeth into it. There is tons of information supporting the fact that you are indeed showing major signs of impairment at a BAC of .05, and increasing your chance of causing or becoming involved in an accident.

Tell me this: Would you want to board an airplane with your family after watching your pilot & co-pilot blow a .05 level? I don't think so!

So no, I don't mind the extra minute it takes me to get home cause I've had to pass thru a RIDE or Checkpoint. I don't mind just having that single glass of wine with my dinner. I don't mind having someone drop me off at the restaurant or wherever, if I plan on having a good time.

Why don't I mind? Because, sadly, I've seen the alternative.