Alta. raises penalties in impaired driving laws

Alberta’s new laws on impaired driving come into effect April 9 and include higher penalties for drivers found to be impaired by either alcohol or drugs.

Drivers with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more, or those impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol, will have their licences suspended for 90 days. That will be followed by mandatory participation in a one-year ignition interlock program and if they refuse to comply with that, drivers will face a one-year licence suspension.

Those same penalties apply to drivers who fail a breath or blood sample test or who refuse to provide one.

The Alberta government also announced that people with Graduated Driver’s Licences (a two-year licence preparatory to obtaining a Class 5) face zero tolerance for cannabis, illegal drugs and alcohol in their bloodstream.

Those found to have imbibed those substances will get a 30-day licence suspension, seven-day vehicle seizure and will extend their time in the graduated driver’s licence program.

“The loss and suffering that result from impaired driving are unacceptable and entirely preventable,” said Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason in a news release outlining the new penalties.

“As the country prepares for legalization of cannabis, we’ve strengthened our provincial impaired driving sanctions to make our roads safer and continue to deter impaired driving whatever the source of impairment may be.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving welcomed the changes, as did the Alberta Motor Association.

“This legislation also lays the groundwork for the province to enforce upcoming changes to federal impaired driving charges in the Criminal Code of Canada, specifically proposed blood drug concentration limits for cannabis and cannabis/alcohol combination, similar to the legal limits that already exist for alcohol,” the news release said.

The changes stem in part from a May 2017 court ruling indicating Alberta’s previous licence suspension legislation was unconstitutional because it called for indefinite suspension of a licence once criminal charges were laid and remained suspended until charges were resolved in court.

The new rules have a fixed-term suspension of 90 days.

Provincial statistics indicate that 1,001 people died in Alberta between 2006-15 as a result of alcohol or drug-impaired driving. More than 15,000 others were injured.

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