Tough Drinking-Driving Penalties Now Back in Full Force
B.C.'s tough administrative penalties for drinking and driving return to the roadside on June 15, backed by a more fair, rigorous roadside and appeal process that became law this spring.
The procedural changes preserve the life-saving, deterrent value of Canada's toughest provincial penalties for alcohol-impaired driving, which first came into effect in September 2010. The B.C. government's goal of reducing impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013 has already been surpassed. Our most-recent analysis shows that we have significantly exceeded the initial targets. Compared to the average over the previous five years, alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths have dropped by 44 per cent since the law came into force- with an estimated 71 lives saved.
The amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act respond to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that the original administrative review process did not provide a driver with the ability to meaningfully challenge the "fail" result of a roadside breath test.
The amendments also enhance the fairness of both roadside and appeal processes. The following conditions now apply, regardless of whether a driver provides either a "warn" or "fail" breath sample at the roadside:
Police must advise drivers of their right to a second breath test on a second approved screening device (ASD). In the past, officers were not legally required to inform drivers of this right.
Police must tell drivers that the lower of the two readings will prevail. Previously, the results of a second test prevailed, whether higher or lower.
Grounds for administrative review now include the reliability of the ASD results, whether police advised the driver of his or her right to a second test, whether police conducted that second breath test on a second ASD, and whether the IRP was issued on the basis of the lowest reading. These grounds reflect the expanded requirements of police officers at the roadside.
Police officers must provide sworn reports to the superintendent of motor vehicles for every immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) they issue - increasing the evidentiary standard of the officers' submissions.
Police officers must also submit documentation attesting to the calibration accuracy of the ASD device or devices that were used.
These changes mean, effective June 15, IRPs resume as an alternative to the full Criminal Code process for drivers found in excess of the legal limit of .08 per cent blood-alcohol content at the roadside- the default approach for police since the court ruling last November.
Between September 2010 and November 2011, police in B.C. issued 27,802 immediate roadside prohibitions to impaired drivers.
When the government of B.C. first introduced its IRP law in September 2010, the goal was to reduce impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013.
This target has already been exceeded. Alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths dropped by 44 percent in the first 17 months since the law came into force. This represents 71 lives saved.
Drivers impaired by alcohol face immediate penalties including administrative sanctions and remedial program costs ranging from $600 to more than $4,000. Impaired drivers also risk losing their vehicle and their licence.