Red Deer police welcome tougher drunk-driver laws

Red Deer City RCMP welcome tougher sanctions that will help crack down on impaired drivers in Alberta, a province with one of the highest drunk driving rates in the country.

Red Deer City RCMP welcome tougher sanctions that will help crack down on impaired drivers in Alberta, a province with one of the highest drunk driving rates in the country.

The Conservatives introduced legislation on Monday that includes a number of strict penalties for those with blood alcohol levels as low as 0.05 per cent.

“Anything that gives us more powers to help remove impaired drivers off the road, I think we support whole-heartedly,” said Cpl. Kathe DeHeer, media liaison with the local RCMP detachment.

Under the proposed bill, first-time offenders with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit of 0.08 per cent will have their vehicle impounded for three days and lose their licence until the criminal charge is resolved.

Other significant highlights in the legislation are severe penalties for those caught driving with blood alcohol levels below the legal limit.

First-time offenders with a concentration between 0.05 and 0.08 will lose their vehicles and licence for three days. Licence suspension and length of vehicle seizure will progressively increase if an individual is caught driving between that range again.

Currently, 24-hour licence suspensions can be given to drivers with a blood alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08.

DeHeer applauded the provisions that target repeat offenders.

“Many of the people who do drink and drive, drink and drive frequently,” she said

Of all the provinces, Alberta was second only to Saskatchewan for having the highest rate of impaired driving in 2009, according to Statistics Canada.

DeHeer said it’s “disturbing” how many people continue to drive drunk, noting Checkstops throughout the city caught nine impaired drivers on Friday.

Most concerning, she added, are the young drivers in their late teens and early 20s who drive with blood alcohol levels as high as 0.2 per cent.

Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission found in 2006 that people between the ages of 15 and 29 were more likely than older Albertans to be heavy or high-risk drinkers.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, therefore, would have liked to see tougher penalties for young impaired drivers in the legislation.

The proposed bill includes a 30-day licence suspension and seven-day vehicle impoundment for drivers within the graduating licensing program that are caught with any alcohol in their system.

Andrew Murie, MADD Canada CEO, said he wished the provincial Tories would have implemented a zero-tolerance for alcohol in drivers up to the age of 21.

“Because of those factors — the low driving age, the low drinking age — (Alberta) needed more than any other province to put that shell around and they didn’t do it,” he said.

Young drivers can complete the three-year graduated licensing program as early as 17 years of age in Alberta, compared to 19 in most other provinces, Murie said.

Young people are aware of the risks involved with drinking and driving, but “they don’t think it will happen to them,” he added.

Scott Wilson, senior policy analyst with the Alberta Motor Association, says young individuals who drive after drinking are 100 times more at risk to be involved in a deadly collision than those who drive sober.

“They don’t have experience with drinking and they tend not to have experience with driving,” he reasoned.

“So they’re at a much higher level of fatal crash involvement than the average driver.”

Wilson supports the proposed legislation, specifically the government’s move to identify those who drive at lower levels of intoxication. Adults who drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 are seven times more like to be involved in a fatal collision than those who drive sober, he said.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses issued a release Monday expressing its concern that penalizing drivers with blood alcohol levels as low of 0.05 will negatively impact the hospitality industry.

But Wilson said the intent of this law is not to target those who drive after one drink.

Still, Wilson and DeHeer urged everyone to separate drinking and driving.

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com