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Holiday revelers should be sure to find a safe way home this winter season, as stricter alcohol-impaired and drug-impaired driving laws come into effect on Tuesday.

Starting Dec. 18th, amendments to Canada’s criminal code will crack down on impaired driving screenings and penalties.

One amendment introduces mandatory alcohol screenings, which are breathalyzer tests performed on approved government screening devices.

As the government’s Q&A web page describes the amendment, “officers [can] demand that a driver provide a roadside breath sample on an approved screening device, whether or not they suspect that the driver has recently consumed alcohol.”

Drivers who refuse to take a roadside check can be subject to a minimum fine of $2000.

Reasoning

According to the government web page, mandatory alcohol screenings can better deter and detect alcohol-impaired drivers.

“Research suggests that up to 50% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit are not detected at roadside check stops,” reads the explanation behind the legislation change.

“In addition, in several other jurisdictions where mandatory alcohol screening was enacted, rates of impaired driving and subsequently fatal road accidents were significantly reduced.”

The federal government cites other countries who use mandatory alcohol screenings like Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden and more as inspiration for the countrywide move.

“For example, authorities in Ireland credit mandatory screening with reducing the number of people killed on Irish roads by almost a quarter (23%) in the first year following its enactment in 2006.”

Penalties

While some areas of the legislation have not been changed, like the mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for impaired driving, many regulations have been altered, like higher mandatory minimum fines, and higher maximum penalties.

The legislation increases the mandatory fines for first offenders with high blood alcohol concentrations.

The new penalties are:

  • A first offender with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 80 to 119 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood is subject to the current mandatory fine of $1,000
  • The mandatory minimum fine for a first offender with a BAC of 120 to 159 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood is raised to $1,500
  • The mandatory minimum fine for a first offender with a BAC of 160 mg or over of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or more is raised to $2,000
  • A first offender who refuses to comply with a lawful demand is subject to a $2,000 minimum fine

More information on the legislation amendments can be found here.

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