The possibility of alcohol in the fatal Saanich crash on Saturday, in addition to the two incidents of drunk driving occurring on the weekend in Victoria, draw attention to the ongoing problem of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents.
I am pleased to see Victoria making an attempt to toughen drunk driving penalties. Legislation that focuses on repeat offenders being admitted into remedial programs and the requirement of blowing into a breathalyzer to start a vehicle seems appropriate and necessary.
However, the B.C. Justice Minister is concerned that the new legislation will be challenged as unconstitutional. I believe it is an important step in ensuring public safety. Other than an increase in fine amount, and the inconvenience of a three-day vehicle impoundment becoming week-long, there isn’t much preventing an individual from driving under the influence for a second time.
Although the lack of fatalities in two of the previously mentioned alcohol-related crashes is a sigh of relief, they still demonstrate the persistence of this issue, and the need for alterations to be made to the current legislation.
While B.C. imposes immediate roadside prohibition at .05 BAC or higher, the Criminal Code defines drunk driving as a BAC of .08 and above. Lowering the legally accepted BAC could prevent the roads from individuals who drive in the .05 to .10 range because of the belief that they are under .08 or that they won’t be caught.
There would also be more room to criminally charge repeat offenders who often drive dangerously under the influence, yet are just shy of the 80% mg mark. The presence of alcohol, although in decline, is still responsible for approximately 900 (40% of all) motor vehicle deaths in Canada annually. Approximately 38% of all injured drivers were found to have been drinking, with 425 (75%) possessing a BAC over 80% mg, according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation). Unlike weather conditions and motor vehicle failure, driving under the influence is highly preventable.
Both federal and provincial governments should put effort into ensuring safety on the roads by limiting the allowable BAC, harshening the fines and sentences, and implementing the remedial program and ignition interlock system legislation for repeat offenders.