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Caught drunk driving, even once? You'll need an ignition interlock

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Manitoba is increasing the pressure on motorists who continue to drink and drive.

Ignition interlock devices will be applied to all convicted impaired drivers who wish to resume driving.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan said the new rules come into effect Saturday.

Until now, ignition interlocks were only applied to repeated offenders and those motorists involved in serious collisions as a result of alcohol consumption.

"There are some drivers who still don’t get the message," Swan said during a morning news conference at the Public Safety Building.

"You’re allowed to drink alcohol, you’re allowed to drive, you just cannot mix the two of them."

Each year about 2,000 Manitoba drivers are caught drinking and driving, despite escalating penalties.

Swan said research shows that ignition interlocks are key to reducing the number of motorists who continue to drive impaired despite the potentially horrific consequences.

Manitoba Public Insurance administers the application of ignition interlocks and officials said they are ramping up stockpiles to be ready for when the new law goes into effect.

New penalties for criminal code convictions for impaired driving:

  • mandatory ignition interlocks for one year for first and second convictions;
  • ignition interlocks for three years for a third conviction;
  • lifetime interlock requirement for fourth and subsequent convictions.

Police officials said they welcomed the tougher law, adding they expect it will be another deterrence to impaired driving.

MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) also applauded Manitoba’s move.

"Interlocks help people change their behavior and thus prevent them from becoming repeat offenders," Andrew Murie, MADD Canada CEO, said. "That is why it’s such an important tool to use with first-time offenders."

Interlock devices require a driver to provide a breath sample before the vehicle will start, detecting alcohol over a pre-set limit and preventing the vehicle from starting.

In Manitoba, drivers with ignition interlocks will also be required to provide random samples while behind the wheel, a move designed to deter attempts to circumvent the devices by having another person blow into the device.

Swan said only a handful of drivers are subject to ignition interlock devices now, adding that will jump to about 2,000 drivers -- at least in the first year.

In addition to any fines and incarceration, Swan said impaired drivers will be responsible to cover the cost of installing, maintaining and removing the devices – about $2,000 over the course of a year.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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