With holiday party season is in full swing, those who get behind the wheel after a few cocktails may want to think again, as much tougher drinking and driving laws are about to kick in this week.
As of Tuesday, December 18, stricter drunk driving laws will come into effect in Canada and now law enforcement will be able to demand a breathalyzer test from drivers they lawfully stop, even without reasonable suspicion that they have consumed alcohol.
Up until now, extreme drunk drivers faced the same penalties as those who only slightly blew over. But now, according to Sergeant Brett Moore, a Mandatory Alcohol Screening (MAS) will be done after the person is stopped lawfully by a police officer and refusal to submit a breath sample could lead to a criminal offence and a mandatory minimum $2,000 fine.
“Research suggests that up to 50% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit are not detected at roadside checkpoints,” said Moore. “Mandatory alcohol screening will assist in deterring individuals impaired by alcohol from driving as well as better detect those who do.”
The new changes also focus on drug-impaired driving, giving police the authority to demand either a Standardized Field Sobriety Test or the use of oral fluid drug screeners.
If the presence of a drug is detected, young, novice and commercial drivers can be immediately suspended from driving. These drivers also have zero tolerance for alcohol.
Under Bill-C46, the mandatory fines for first offenders with high blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) without causing bodily harm or death will also increase to:
- 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
- Second offence is mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment
- Third offence is mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment
“The number is intolerable,” said Moore. “We also want to remind members of our community and partners that if you suspect an impaired driver on our roads, call 9-1-1.”
These are the current laws around drinking and driving in BC.