Coaster campaign against Alta. impaired driving law irks MADD

EDMONTON — A campaign that uses drink coasters to oppose changes to Alberta’s impaired driving legislation has drawn the ire of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

EDMONTON — A campaign that uses drink coasters to oppose changes to Alberta’s impaired driving legislation has drawn the ire of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

MADD Canada says in a news release that the provincial Wildrose Party makes it sound like the new legislation targets social drinkers.

The law passed last year targets drivers who are close to the Criminal Code limit — between .05 and .08 blood alcohol content.

Wildrose has been passing out drink coasters with slogans urging Albertans to get the law repealed.

It says the law misses the target, violates civil liberties, and reeks of the “nanny state.”

But MADD Canada’s national president, Denise Dubyk, says the coaster campaign leaves out the fact that strong sanctions at the .05 level work.

“This isn’t about politics, it’s about the safety of the public. The Wildrose Party says they are trying to raise awareness about what’s going on, but they completely disregard the benefits these sanctions will have in reducing alcohol-related crashes,” Dubyk states in the news release.

The white square coasters display the number .05 inside a red circle with a line through it. They urge drivers to drink responsibly but also to demand the bill to be repealed.

Under the new law, drivers caught in the .05 and .08 range will not be charged criminally but will have their licences taken away starting at three days and escalating to a month for repeat offenders. There will also be vehicle seizures up to a week at a time.

Also when the law takes effect, any Alberta driver caught over .08 and charged criminally will lose his or her driver’s licence until the case is resolved in court.

The Wildrose says that could see a licence effectively withdrawn for months or years before guilt or innocence is even determined.

MADD Canada says the Wildrose campaign suggests drivers under .08 aren’t a risk on the roads. But it says research shows that driving-related skills are impaired at .05 and the risk of a crash increases at that blood-alcohol level.

“To suggest driving ability is not affected at those levels is incorrect and irresponsible,” she says.

Dubyk also rejects suggestions the law will affect “social drinking.”

“MADD Canada encourages people to separate their drinking from driving entirely,” Dubyk says. “But it’s important for everyone to understand that these sanctions do not infringe on someone’s ability to have a glass of wine with dinner, or join friends for a beer after work.”

When Rob Anderson of Wildrose displayed the coasters in the Alberta legislature during question period last month, the Tories shot back that they urged people to drink and drive.

Anderson, however, said the bill was passed too quickly and without public consultation. He also said it was unfair for the Tories to portray anyone who opposed the bill as being pro-drunk driving.

The bill also came under fire from the Opposition Liberals when it was passed. Liberal leader Raj Sherman asked how the premier, as a human rights lawyer, could defend laws that assumed guilt and administered punishment before due process.

Redford noted that Supreme Court judge in British Columbia ruled last year that the province has the right to impose administrative penalties for those driving .05 to .08.

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