Late last week, on Hwy 2 around Red Deer, some small signs began to pop up in ditches saying “.05 DUMP REDFORD.”
The signs with the stencilled message in fluorescent orange were put up by anonymous persons but the message was clear.
They don’t want Alberta’s new tougher drunk driving legislation, Bill 26, which passed in December, to ever come into effect. Defeating the Tories and Alison Redford would accomplish that apparently.
It has become a provincial election issue. The Wildrose Party pledges to repeal the bill, but increase checkstops and enforcement of the .08 legal limit.
The new law doesn’t change existing .05 blood alcohol content (BAC) and .08 BAC limits.
But it will increase penalties, allowing for an automatic three-day licence suspension and three-day vehicle seizure for the first offence for drivers who test between .05 and .08 BAC. Drivers with blood alcohol content between .05 and .08 will not be subject to prosecution under the Criminal Code.
Among the changes to drunk driving legislation, drivers who test over .08 BAC will face an immediate licence suspension until charges are resolved, and mandatory participation in the ignition interlock program will be required.
And things will get stricter for new drivers. If they are caught with any alcohol in their system, they face an automatic week-long vehicle seizure and 30-day driving ban.
The government says that the bill targets repeat offenders and “does not target responsible Albertans who consume small amounts of alcohol on an evening out.”
Besides Wildrose having a problem with Bill 26, restaurants and bars operators, through the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CFRA), have expressed objections as well. The association argues that most of the impaired drivers who were involved in fatal accidents had blood alcohol content levels over .08.
Simply put, the organization says the new legislation will hurt their businesses because people will be too afraid to stop into a pub or dine out.
The association says that similar new drinking and driving penalties implemented in B.C. resulted in 88 per cent of B.C. CRFA-licensed members losing an average of 21 per cent in liquor sales after the penalties were implemented.
“CRFA believes we need to focus limited police resources on those impaired drivers causing accidents and fatalities, not responsible social drinkers.”
The Alberta government, in this case comprised of Progressive Conservatives, provides statistics that show that between 2006 and 2010, 3,261 impaired drivers were involved in collisions that killed 358 people and seriously injured 1,550 people. There were also 3,206 people who suffered minor injuries.
When B.C. brought in its own version of tougher drunk driving legislation, that province saw the number of deaths related to impaired driving reduced by 40 per cent. In the first year, there were 68 alcohol-related deaths compared to 113 on average in each of the previous five years.
While businesses that serve alcohol are likely going to be affected by Bill 26, instead of fighting something that really does save lives, how about promoting ways for people to get home safely, like designated drivers and responsible drinking?
Bill 26 is about trying to reduce the tragedies that occur on our highways by drinking drivers. Family after family after family has had to go through terrible loss after terrible loss. These losses, where innocent loved ones are killed by impaired drivers, are heavy.
Bill 26 is also about saving the health-care system millions of dollars.
Impaired driving is no accident. It’s entirely preventable.
Somehow Wildrose thinks the target should be just those who are over .08. But in collisions between 2006 and 2010 where 2,780 drivers had consumed some alcohol (and weren’t legally impaired), 211 people died, 1,194 people were seriously injured and 2,580 people suffered minor injuries.
The measure of a good government is not that it will do anything to get a vote, it’s that it will sometimes be brave enough to take unpopular measures in the bests interests of citizens.
Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by phone at 403-314-4332, by email at email@example.com, and on Twitter @maryannbarr1