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In-car breathalyzers for all drunk-driving convicts

BE warned: If you get nailed for drunk driving, you'll need to take a breathalyzer to start your car.

Effective Saturday, the penalties are increasing for motorists who drink and drive.

Anyone convicted of impaired driving can't start his or her vehicle again if they have alcohol on their breath. The province will require even first-time offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles before they drive again.

Interlock devices require a driver to provide a breath sample before the vehicle will start, detecting the presence of alcohol over a pre-set limit. In Manitoba, the pre-set limit is a blood-alcohol reading of .02, effectively zero tolerance.

"There are some drivers who still don't get the message," Justice Minister Andrew Swan said during a news conference at the Public Safety Building, accompanied by senior officials from the Winnipeg Police Service and the RCMP.

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

Despite steeper penalties, about 2,000 Manitobans are convicted of impaired driving.

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

Police officials said they welcome the tougher law, and expect it will be another deterrence to impaired driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada also applauded Manitoba's move.

"Interlocks help people change their behaviour 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."

Manitoba Public Insurance spokesman Brian Smiley said convicted drivers are only allowed to drive again if they agree not to drink and drive -- the ignition interlock devices ensure they comply with the conditions.

Drivers 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 interlocks.

Swan said only a handful of drivers is subject to ignition-interlock devices now, but that number is expected to jump to about 2,000 drivers -- at least in the first year.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2012 A3


Updated on Friday, December 14, 2012 at 7:26 AM CST: adds fact box

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