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OAKVILLE, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 3, 2011) - The Government of British Columbia must put the safety of sober drivers, passengers and pedestrians ahead of alleged business interests of the hospitality industry. The Government must keep its .05% administrative roadside sanctions intact, says MADD Canada.
The statement comes in response to reports that Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Rich Coleman is considering an appeals process for roadside penalties for impaired driving offences. No specifics were released about the changes being proposed.
Much of the criticism of the roadside sanctions has come from the bar and restaurant industry. Yet, as Professor Robert Solomon, Faculty of Law, University of Western Ontario and MADD Canada's Director of Legal Policy states, "Jurisdictions across Canada and around the world have .05% sanctions in place and the hospitality industries have thrived. One need only consider Australia or the European Union which have far more rigorous .05% legislation and yet have far higher rates of per capita alcohol consumption and public drinking."
Recently released statistics show the sanctions are working. The British Columbia Chiefs of Police have reported that driving deaths due to impaired driving are down 23% over the same time last year.
"It is time to bring the discussion about this law back to its original intent, which is to reduce impaired driving and prevent alcohol-related crashes, deaths and injuries," Professor Solomon said. "A 23% reduction in alcohol-related crash fatalities is a clear and strong indication of the effectiveness of these sanctions."
Research from Canada and abroad confirm that the deterrent value of these roadside sanctions lies with their immediacy. "For some individuals, it is not enough to know that impaired driving is illegal or dangerous. That does not stop them," Professor Solomon said. "The risk of losing their licence and having their vehicle impounded for three days is a real world deterrent. Remove or minimize those sanctions, and where is the deterrent?"
The Government and police have already addressed criticisms about the potential for false or borderline readings at roadside. The general process at roadside is to conduct two tests on two different machines if the reading is a 'warn' or 'fail' range. Moreover, there is already an appeals process in place for people who fail a roadside breath test. Furthermore, Professor Solomon said, the law in British Columbia was already, in practice, changed to allow higher BAC levels when all of the province's breathalyzers were recalibrated in late 2010 to trigger warnings at .06% rather than .05%.
Critics of this law often claim it targets social drinkers, rather than going after the people who are over the .08% limit. Major problems exist with that argument. First, the .05% sanctions do not target social drinkers. It takes more than a drink or two for the average person to reach .05%. Second, the idea that it is only people over the .08% level who are causing carnage on our road is incorrect. Driving ability is impaired with even small amounts of alcohol, and drivers with BACs of .05% are at significantly higher risk for crashes than drivers with lower BACs. Third, .05% BAC limits have proven to have a deterrent impact on drivers at all BAC levels. In fact, research from two jurisdictions indicate that .05% laws have the greatest deterrent impact on drivers at the highest BAC levels.
"These sanctions were introduced to make roads safer for everyone in British Columbia by reducing impaired driving and preventing alcohol-related crashes. The statistics show it is working. The Government of British Columbia needs to show its leadership on this issue and put the safety of its citizens first by maintaining these sanctions as they are now."