It’s been three months since Alberta adopted tougher penalties for impaired drivers, but the law’s impacts are still being determined.
Red Deer RCMP Sgt. Isabelle Hammer said it is too early to say what kind of impact the laws are having. But she said police have found people are more interested in learning more about the law.
“What we have seen is an increase in people wanting to be educated,” said Hammer. “One of the biggest changes is we used to remove a driver’s licence and then there would be a temporary permit they would use. Now the driver’s licence is completely gone until their court days.”
For local business, the reaction so far has also been quiet. Gayle Langford, Red Deer Chamber of Commerce president, said they haven’t heard any businesses complain about the new law and its impact since its implementation.
Although she hasn’t heard any locals lamenting the legal changes, it may be a question she asks her members in the new year to get a better gauge on if the problem is affecting local businesses.
On Sept. 1, a slew of changes to Alberta’s impaired driving laws took effect. The changes led to harsher penalties for people who blow over 0.05 blood alcohol content. These followed changes that increased penalties for those who blow over 0.08 that came into effect on July 1.
The 0.05 changes included increasing the first offence to a three-day licence suspension, previously a 24-hour suspension, and a three-day vehicle seizure. Second offence increases the licence suspension to 15 days and the vehicle seizure to a week and third offence increases a licence suspension to 30 days, with the vehicle seizure running for a week.
The biggest change to the 0.08 charges is a person’s licence is suspended until the criminal charge is resolved.
“I haven’t seen, at least on my desk, a huge increase,” said Hammer. “It’s basically the same, it’s still 0.08, it’s the punishment that has increased.”
While the impact of the impaired driving law changes has yet to be seen, Hammer said there is another newer provincial law that people have yet to comprehend.
“What we haven’t seen is the distracted driving laws, people aren’t quite aware what they can or can’t do,” said Hammer.
This includes people who think they can text at a red light or put their phone on speaker mode and hold it near the steering wheel to talk.
But with the impaired driving law changes, Hammer hopes people are more aware of the tougher penalties and as a result are being more cautious.
“We’ll see with the Christmas holidays coming,” said Hammer.