The provincial government is cracking down on impaired driving with new penalties.
The new rules will have zero tolerance for drivers that get behind the wheel with any detectable level of impairing drugs in their system. The changes include stronger penalties for drug-impaired drivers and for impaired drivers who transport children.
“The old ones just kind of followed the drinking and driving guidelines, this one is a little bit different because the drug impaired with legalized cannabis is a little bit different and the equipment is a little bit different,” said Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for SGI.
As a whole, the fines and punishments went up for all impaired driving.
“We’ve changed the punishments,” Hargrave said. “There’s a lot more administrative penalties where we can just take your car and your licence for a period of time.”
Impaired driving can be from the influence of alcohol, cannabis, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs or illegal drugs.
“There will also be longer vehicle seizures for impaired drivers with passengers under 16 years of age in the vehicle,” wrote SGI spokesperson Tyler McMurchy in a media release. “In addition, experienced drivers who are impaired and transporting passengers under 16 will face longer roadside licence suspensions.”
Punishments for drug impaired driving now include immediate licence suspension, vehicle seized for up to 60 days, and licence suspension for up to five years if convicted.
For impaired drivers with passengers under 16, it includes vehicle seized for up to 60 days, licence suspension for up to 120 days, and licence suspension up to 18 months for new drivers.
The changes came into effect on Sept. 1, after being passed by the Legislature last spring.
“If a driver subsequently fails a DRE [Drug recognition exam], or exceeds .08 blood alcohol concentration, that triggers Criminal Code charges, which results in a minimum 30-day vehicle seizure, an indefinite licence suspension until the charges are dealt with, and – upon conviction – potential fines, jail time, ignition interlock requirements and driving prohibitions,” wrote McMurchy.
In June the federal government created three new offences for having a prohibited concentration of drugs in the blood within two hours of driving, among other changes. These are part of a Criminal Code amendment the federal government called, “the most comprehensive reform to the Criminal Code transportation regime in more than 40 years”.
Hargrave said he spoke with families of victims killed through impaired driving.
“One death on our highways due to a totally preventable cause like drinking and driving, or like being high and driving, is one too many,” Hargrave said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to have stiff laws, stiff penalties when it comes to impaired driving. We need to stop those needless injuries, those needless deaths.”
He said that upon losing someone to impaired driving, a person is never the same.
“You can look in their eyes, talk to them and they’re people that will never be the same. And it wasn’t because they did anything wrong, and it wasn’t because their loved one did something wrong, it was because they were in the wrong place and been hit by someone who made the bad decision to drive while impaired.”