September, 2012 – Drivers in Alberta are facing new impaired driving rules. As of September 1, drivers who record a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between .05 and .08 will receive an immediate three-day license suspension and a three-day vehicle seizure. Penalties will increase with repeat offences:
Second offence: Immediate 15-day licence suspension; Immediate seven-day vehicle seizure; Planning Ahead course (Planning Ahead is a one-day program that addresses how alcohol affects driving ability, how to separate drinking from driving and how an alcohol-centred lifestyle can lead to a higher risk for impaired driving and other problems. The cost is approximately $220 and the driver is responsible for that cost.)
Third and subsequent offences: Immediate 30-day licence suspension; Immediate seven-day vehicle seizure; IMPACT course; Mandatory hearing with the Alberta Transportation Safety Board to reinstate licence (IMPACT is a weekend residential program that includes examining how alcohol is affecting that individual’s life, determining which problems may have been caused by alcohol use and creating an action plan. The cost is approximately $750 and the driver is responsible for that cost.)
Before the changes, since 1999, a driver with a BAC of .05 to .08 received a 24-hour license suspension.
The province introduced the changes to impaired driving legislation in November 2011. The first phase of the legislation came into effect July 1, 2012 and involved tougher administrative penalties for drivers with over .08 BAC and for graduated licence drivers with any alcohol in their system.
“Preliminary numbers show that, from July 1 to August 23, 994 licence suspensions and 632 vehicle seizures were issued to drivers over .08, and 114 licence suspensions and 73 vehicle seizures were issued to drivers with a graduated licence who had consumed alcohol,” said a statement from the government. These numbers do not include all suspensions and seizures issued during this time period.
For those drivers who wish to contest the findings of an approved, scientifically calibrated breath-testing device and the corresponding administrative penalties, an appeal process is in place. At the roadside, a driver can request a second breath test from a second approved breath-testing device. Also, licence suspensions and vehicle seizures longer than three days may be appealed through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board, which is an independent quasi-judicial body.
“We want to encourage drivers to plan ahead and make the right decisions for themselves, for their passengers and for other people on the road,” said Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver. “Since we passed this legislation last year, so many Albertans have already had these important conversations with their families and friends. We can all do something about preventable traffic collisions.”
“This is 100 per cent about driver safety,” said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. “Nobody has the right to drive drunk. Alberta’s police will continue to enforce the existing rules and ensure drivers get to their destinations safe and sound.”
“Our driving performance begins to deteriorate significantly at .05,” said Kathy Belton, Associate Director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research. “International research also tells us that penalties at .05 impact people’s behaviour across the board, even those at the highest alcohol levels.”
Ivonne Martinez, President, Alberta Liquor Store Association commented on the ongoing education efforts. “It is important to give Albertans the tools necessary so they understand what impairment means to them and they can plan ahead,” said Martinez. “Social responsibility is a key component of the Alberta Liquor Store Association mandate and our membership supports the efforts of the Alberta government to provide public education and awareness for drinking responsibly.”