Alberta lags in drunk driving legislation

“I’m going to have several drinks, then get in my vehicle and see if I can kill someone.” Every day, there are drivers in Alberta who, if they don’t actually speak the words, say it in their actions. Almost one in four fatal crashes in Alberta involves drinking and driving.

“I’m going to have several drinks, then get in my vehicle and see if I can kill someone.”

Every day, there are drivers in Alberta who, if they don’t actually speak the words, say it in their actions. Almost one in four fatal crashes in Alberta involves drinking and driving.

If we think we can go no further with tough drunk driving laws in Alberta, think again. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers says Alberta could do better.

According to MADD Canada’s Rating the Provinces and Territories — The 2009 Report, Alberta ranks only sixth overall when it comes to legislation to reduce alcohol and drug-related crashes, fatalities and injuries.

The last time the rating was done, in 2006, Alberta ranked fourth overall.

Ontario’s impaired driving laws ranked first overall in 2009, according to the report, while Nunavut came in dead last at 13th. The MADD report was released earlier this month.

Why can’t impaired driving legislation be standardized across the country?

The MADD report says Ontario’s impaired driving reforms include: a comprehensive graduated licensing program; three-day administrative licence suspensions for drivers with blood alcohol concentrations over .05 per cent; a comprehensive vehicle impoundment program; and a mandatory alcohol interlock program for all federal impaired driving offences.

“Alberta has made little improvement, despite having some of highest impaired driving rates in the country,” the report says.

MADD Canada recommends a number of legislative measures for Alberta. Some include:

• A zero per cent blood alcohol content (BAC) for all drivers under 21 and all drivers in the first five years of licensure.

• Increase the minimum age of licensed driving on public roads to 16. Alberta’s graduated licensing program has no high-speed roadway restrictions.

• Police should be authorized to demand a test on an approved screening device from all drivers and supervisors who are subject to a zero per cent BAC restriction, even in the absence of a reasonable suspicion of alcohol consumption.

• Alberta should enact a mandatory alcohol interlock program for all federal impaired driving offenders. Presently, the program applies to people with a BAC of .16 per cent or higher; who refuse to provide a breath or blood sample; or who have more than one conviction for driving with a BAC in excess of .08 per cent in the past 10 years.

• Alberta does not have a vehicle forfeiture program, even for those who have multiple impaired driving convictions. MADD says it should have one. I agree.

We must continually look at ways to reduce impaired driving. Legislation is one of those ways.

Our legislators should have a look at MADD’s recommendations and, whenever practical, embrace them.

Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@bprda.wpengine.com or by phone at 403-314-4332.

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