March 28, 2020

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Penalties for drinking and driving to get tougher

Province proposes new sanctions, fines for blood-alcohol levels between .05 and .08

Under the proposed new law, drivers under the influence of alcohol who register a 'warn' suggesting a blood alcohol content of between .05 and .08 would face a penalty of at least $200 for a first offence. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files)</p>

Under the proposed new law, drivers under the influence of alcohol who register a 'warn' suggesting a blood alcohol content of between .05 and .08 would face a penalty of at least $200 for a first offence. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/11/2018 (484 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Impaired drivers in Manitoba will face stiffer sanctions under proposed amendments to the Highway Traffic Act that will also give police more powers to impose immediate penalties.

Police would have the discretion to levy a $500 fine and impose the use of a vehicle ignition interlock device for one year — rather than proceeding with a criminal charge — against first-time drunk drivers who fail a roadside screening test. The administrative penalty could only occur if the driver did not cause an injury or death.

There would also be new penalties, including short-term vehicle impoundment and new fines, for drivers recording a blood-alcohol content of between .05 and .08 (calculated as 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood).

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said too many people have failed to get the message about the perils of drunk driving.

"Quite frankly, they’re taking the lives of too many Manitobans," he told a news conference Thursday, after introducing Bill 7, the Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Immediate Roadside Prohibition), in the Manitoba legislature.

So far this year, 28 people have been killed on the province’s roads because of the actions of drunk drivers, Cullen said.

The proposed legislation is modelled on a 2010 British Columbia law that immediately reduced deaths due to drunk driving in that province by 50 per cent, said Andrew Murie, chief executive officer of MADD Canada, which works to stop impaired driving.

He said research has shown immediate roadside penalties, especially vehicle impoundment, are most successful in changing the culture around impaired driving. The B.C. law survived a Supreme Court challenge, he noted.

Under the proposed law, drivers under the influence of alcohol who register a "warn" on an approved screening device suggesting a blood-alcohol content of between .05 and .08 would face a new penalty of at least $200 for a first offence, escalating to at least $400 for a third or subsequent offence.

They would have their vehicle impounded for three days for a first offence, seven days for a second offence and 30 days for a third or subsequent offence.

Those who fail a roadside test or record a blood-alcohol level of between .05 and .08 would take a big financial hit under the proposed new law.

Adding up all the administrative sanctions and penalties, the minimum cost for someone recording just below .08 would be $2,600 for a first offence. The minimum for a fail would be more than $3,300.

Mark Fisher, chief superintendent with the RCMP in Manitoba, said allowing police to administer quick roadside penalties for first-time drunk-driving offenders will free up officers for additional patrols.

He said it can take up to four hours to bring someone in for a breathalyzer test.

"The expedited process will allow our officers to be back on the road and conducting additional enforcement much more quickly than is currently the case," he said.

Drivers who register a fail or a "warn" on a roadside screening device would be offered a second test on a second approved screening device. Any sanctions they may face would be based on the lower of the two results.

Drivers would also be able to apply to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles for an administrative review of any suspension. If they are successful, all other sanctions would be terminated.

Ward Keith, vice-president and chief administrative officer of Manitoba Public Insurance, said the Crown corporation will conduct a public awareness campaign once the proposed law is enacted.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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