Understanding Alberta’s new impaired driving law 

Understanding Alberta’s new impaired driving law

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Spring and summer are important seasons on our roads as Albertans start planning school field trips, sports tournaments and family vacations. The Alberta government is bringing forward changes and educating Albertans as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by drinking drivers.

These changes will roll out in the coming months. By the July long weekend, Alberta will have tougher penalties in place for drivers with a blood alcohol content over .08 and new drivers with any blood alcohol in their system. By the end of summer, the lesser penalties for drivers in the .05 to .08 range will come into effect.

Work continues in preparation for these changes. This includes orienting all frontline police officers to the changes by about mid-June, including through information sessions and orientation material. This is being done at the same time as regulations are developed and systems are updated to better track repeat offenders.

A public education and awareness campaign is also being developed to answer questions, emphasize the importance of drinking responsibly and encourage people to plan ahead for safe transportation.

It’s important that people understand that this law does not change the legal impairment limits. The new law still allows individuals to have a drink with dinner or after work with friends. It does not increase the "warn" level of .05 or the criminal impairment level of .08. It only increases the penalties.

As we all know, the consequences of impaired driving can be devastating and everybody has a right to come home safely to their loved ones at the end of the day.

Albertans are encouraged to talk to their friends and family about what it means to be safe, starting today. Visit the Alberta Transportation website to learn more and get the straight facts on this legislation: www.transportation.alberta.ca/impaireddriving.htm

The New Law: Bill 26 at a Glance

What it does:

  • Targets repeat offenders
  • Emphasizes education, enforcement and follow-up

What it doesn’t do:

  • Does not target responsible Albertans who consume small amounts of alcohol on an evening out
  • Does not add fines or demerit penalties
  • Does not change the existing BAC limits of .05 and .08

Increasing existing penalties for drivers who test over .08 BAC

  • In addition to criminal charges, immediate licence suspension until charges are resolved
  • Vehicle seizure for three to seven days
  • Mandatory participation in the ignition interlock program (installation of an alcohol sensing device in the offender’s vehicle and monitoring of driving activity)

Increasing existing penalties for drivers who test between .05 and .08 BAC

  • Automatic three-day licence suspension and three-day vehicle seizure for the first offence
  • Escalating penalties and education program for repeat offences

Stricter rules for new drivers

  • Automatic week-long vehicle seizure and 30-day driving ban if caught driving with any alcohol in their system

Drinking drivers in Alberta

  • From 2006 to 2010, drinking drivers were involved in collisions that killed 569 people and injured 8,530 others. Of those deaths, 211 people were killed by drivers who had consumed some alcohol but were below the .08 level.

Penalties for BAC levels between .05 and .08

  • This is not new. Law enforcement officers in Alberta have been issuing 24-hour suspensions to drivers in this blood alcohol range for many years.
  • Every Canadian jurisdiction, with the exception of Quebec, issues a minimum 24-hour suspension for drivers at .05. Nine of those jurisdictions have now introduced tougher sanctions at this level.
  • Studies show that a person's driving skills are seriously affected at .05 and that an individual is more likely to be involved in a collision.