Tougher laws around driving with a blood alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08 are actually taking away resources to catch drunk drivers, according the Wildrose Party.
The party, if elected, would repeal the tougher regulations, which include roadside suspensions and vehicle impoundments. Kerry Towle, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA, said the law takes police resources away from catching drivers who have blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than 0.08 and face significant penalties.
“We believe the focus should be on ensuring we have enough resources to get impaired drivers off the road,” said Towle.
As well as repealing the harsher rules around 0.05, the party would also add extra enforcement for Alberta checkstops. There would be five dedicated teams across the province for checkstops.
“It’s not a decrease in service at all, in fact we see it as an increase,” said Towle. “It’s making sure the resources are going to making sure the people who are actually impaired are off the road.”
MADD Canada supports the tougher drunk driving laws enacted by the Progressive Conservatives in 2012. In an email, Aleta Neville, MADD Red Deer chapter president, said the current laws are important and necessary.
Neville’s 21-year-old son Brent was killed in 2006 in an impaired driving incident. He was a passenger in a single-vehicle crash in Calgary.
“Eliminating these laws would be a serious mistake and we believe it would increase impaired driving crashes, deaths and injuries,” she said.
“The new laws had an immediate and significant impact.”
According to statistics from the government of Alberta from July to December 2012, there were 33 alcohol-related fatal collisions, down 46 per cent from the average of that same time frame, July to December, from 2007 to 2011. This means there were 29 fewer alcohol-related fatal collisions under those statistical parameters.
“We all agree that we need to 100 per cent enforce the 0.08 law and get more drunk drivers off the road, no question about that,” said Towle.
Neville pointed to comparable laws adopted in B.C. in 2010. According to B.C. statistics, since the adoption of tougher sanctions — including a similar 0.05 punishment with roadside driving prohibitions and vehicle impoundment — fatal alcohol-related fatal collisions have dropped 52 per cent.
“It is a misperception that only drivers over 0.08 per cent BAC cause impaired driving crashes,” reads Neville’s email. “Key driving-related skills become progressively impaired at 0.05 per cent BAC and higher, and the risk of a crash rises sharply at that level.
“Our goal is to create safer roads by ensuring that Albertans take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel. Our mission is saving lives and supporting victims of this violent crime. One life lost is one too many — each victim has a name, they had a future and a life to look forward to. Families are left picking up the pieces and living a life sentence without their loved ones.”
Towle also cited the law as a detriment to businesses that are hurt by the harsher penalties. She pointed to John May, manager of the Bowden Hotel, who said in a recent letter to the editor in the Advocate that he lost 20 per cent of his business because of the 2012 law. She said repealing the law would help businesses.