Changes to impaired driving laws

Alberta’s impaired driving laws are changing effective December 1, 2020. A new Roadside Sanction program will keep our roads safer by providing serious and immediate consequences for all impaired drivers. Read Freeing up police and courts to make Alberta safer for more information.

Additional resources:

Overview

If your driver’s licence has been suspended under the Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) IRS FAIL Program (where the occurrence date was on or after December 1, 2020) because law enforcement had reasonable grounds to believe you were driving at a criminal-level impairment level, you will receive a 2-stage, fixed term suspension of:

  • an immediate 90-day driving suspension where driving is not permitted under any circumstances, and
  • an additional suspension term where you are permitted to drive if you participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program. The suspension term will vary based on the number of prior occurrences since April 9, 2018 in either the Alberta Administrative Licence Suspension (AALS) Program or IRS FAIL Program:
    • first occurrence is an additional 12 month suspension where you are only able to drive if you participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program
    • second occurrence is an additional 36 month suspension where you are only able to drive if you participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program
    • third (and subsequent) occurrence is a lifetime suspension where you are only able to drive if you participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program

If you choose not to participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program, you will remain suspended from driving.

Criminal charges resulting in a criminal conviction could affect your participation in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program. You may also be required to participate in the Mandatory Ignition Interlock Program.

For more information, please refer to the Ignition Interlock Program Participant Guide (PDF, 481 KB).

Eligibility

You must be an Alberta resident to be eligible for an Alberta restricted driver’s licence.

You can apply to the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program when you have 30-days or less remaining in your minimum driving suspension term as indicated on the Notice of Administrative Penalty form given to you by law enforcement.

You must not be currently serving any other suspension(s) other than the current impaired driving suspension otherwise your Ignition Interlock Program application will be denied.

Driver Fitness and Monitoring must approve your Ignition Interlock Program application.

Driver Fitness and Monitoring can deny any Ignition Interlock Program Application in the interest of public safety. You can request a review of this decision to the Registrar Reconsideration process.

Exemptions

Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act does allow for exemptions when it is not feasible to comply with the requirement. Feasibility is defined as the physical incapacity or physical incapability to comply with the requirement of an interlock device.

Financial constraints, vehicle inaccessibility and occupational hardships will not be considered.

If you are approved for an exemption from the IRS Ignition Interlock Program, the Registrar may impose a further period of disqualification or another term or condition to ensure public safety.

To apply for an exemption, submit a letter to Driver Fitness and Monitoring by fax or email (in PDF format) with the following information:

  • driver’s licence number or motor vehicle identification number
  • full name and date of birth
  • mailing address, telephone number and email address, if applicable
  • the reason(s) why it is not feasible to comply with the requirement for an interlock device

Before applying for an exemption

Before an exemption request for a medical condition can be fully evaluated, you will need to complete the following steps in this order:

  1. Contact Smart Start to complete practical testing using the interlock device.
    • Smart Start has the ability to modify and adjust the breath pressure settings on the interlock device to determine if a successful breath sample can be achieved.
    • The testing will be completed through a variety of methods to ensure accuracy and validation.
    • To schedule your testing provided at no charge, please contact Smart Start at 1-844-432-4776.
    • Once the testing is complete, Smart Start will forward the test results to Alberta Transportation to attach to your motor vehicle file.
  2. Provide our office with signed correspondence from your regular attending physician verifying your medical condition along with evidentiary medical testing to support your physical incapacity or incapability to participate.

Processing time for exemption requests is 6 to 8 weeks.

Costs

You can expect to pay the following Ignition Interlock Program costs which are subject to change without notice:

  • $145 plus GST for the interlock device installation (there is an additional $100 surcharge for heavy trucks and specialty vehicles)
  • $95 plus GST per month for the rental of the interlock device
  • $63 for the Ignition Interlock Program Application, in addition to the Alberta registry agent fee
  • $50 plus GST for removal of the interlock device
  • fees for the restricted driver's licence and road test, when applicable, must be paid at an Alberta registry agent

How to apply

Step 1. Determine if you are eligible

Review the information in the Notice of Administrative Penalty form given to you by law enforcement and determine whether you are eligible to apply and ready to participate in the program prior to paying the non-refundable Ignition Interlock Program Application fee.

Ensure you have 30-days or less remaining in your minimum driving suspension term before applying, otherwise your application may be denied and returned to you via regular mail.

Complete the required remedial education course (you are required to present your course completion certificate to the installer at the installation appointment):

  • Planning Ahead course before the interlock device can be installed
  • IMPACT Program before your application form can be processed

Step 2. Complete the application

Review the Ignition Interlock Program Participant Guide prior to purchasing your application form, which is also available at any Alberta registry agent.

Visit any Alberta registry agent to purchase and complete your portion of the Ignition Interlock Program Application. Your Ignition Interlock Program Application must be signed and dated or it will be returned to you for completion before it can be processed.

Step 3. Submit the application

Submit the Ignition Interlock Program Application form either by email (in PDF format) or fax to Driver Fitness and Monitoring.

Lost documents

If you lost your approval letter from Driver Fitness and Monitoring for participation in the Ignition Interlock Program, please contact Smart Start directly to schedule your installation . A replacement copy of your approval letter from Driver Fitness and Monitoring is not required as Smart Start will receive electronic notification of your approval to participate.

If you have lost your Certificate of Installation for the interlock device, please contact Smart Start to get a replacement copy.

If you lost your original Ignition Interlock Program Application and had not yet submitted it to Driver Fitness and Monitoring for approval, you must purchase another Ignition Interlock Program Application from any Alberta registry agent.

Step 4. You will be notified by mail

Driver Fitness and Monitoring will notify you by mail of whether or not you have been accepted to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program.

It can take up to 45-days for your application to be processed plus additional time for the approval letter to be mailed to you. If it has been more than 55-days since you applied, please contact Driver Fitness and Monitoring.

If you are accepted, you will receive an approval letter for participation in the Ignition Interlock Program in the mail along with the following information:

  • how to get the interlock device installed in your vehicle
  • training on how to operate the device
  • information on completing the road test, if required, to obtain a restricted driver’s licence

Step 5. Get the ignition interlock device

Contact Smart Start, Alberta’s interlock service provider, to have the interlock device installed in your vehicle.

Step 6. Get a restricted driver’s licence

Once the Certificate of Installation is signed by the installer showing the installation is complete, you must bring this Certificate to any Alberta registry agent to get a restricted driver’s licence.

Ensure you have satisfied all reinstatement conditions. The registry agent will validate your completed Certificate of Installation and retain it for further administrative processing.

You will be issued a restricted driver’s licence with a new status of “restricted to a vehicle with an alcohol sensing ignition interlock device”.

Restricted Driver’s Licence

You cannot operate any motor vehicle until you are issued a restricted driver’s licence.

Once you are issued a restricted driver’s licence, you will only be legally permitted to drive a vehicle with an interlock device.

If you drive a vehicle without an interlock device, you can receive additional charges of driving while suspended, vehicle seizure and additional sanctions/penalties.

Road test

If you have been unlicensed for more than 3 years, you must complete a knowledge test, vision screening and road test at any Alberta registry agent. You will be responsible for related costs.

If a road test is required before you are re-licensed and you did not complete it prior to having the interlock device installed, you cannot legally drive and you will need to make arrangements (for example through a family member, friend, taxi or ride-sharing service) to get to an Alberta registry agent to take your road test.

The driver examiner may request that you show your approval letter for participation in the Ignition Interlock Program.

Upon successful completion of the road test, ensure your Certificate of Installation is returned to you. You will submit the Certificate of Installation and the road test permit to the Alberta registry agent in exchange for a restricted driver’s licence.

Step 7. Choose how long you participate

If you want to legally drive during the second part of your IRS FAIL suspension term, you must participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program. If you choose not to participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program, you are unable to drive.

You can choose to participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program for any length of time during your IRS FAIL suspension term. For example, some drivers choose to only drive and participate in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program during the summer months of their IRS FAIL suspension term and not drive during the winter months.

Your Ignition Interlock Program term length will begin once you have installed the interlock device and obtained a restricted driver’s licence.

Step 8. Get the device removed

Schedule an appointment with Smart Start to have the interlock device removed on or after the last day of your IRS FAIL suspension term. If you remove the interlock device earlier than the last day of your IRS FAIL suspension term, you will be unable to drive.

Once the interlock device is removed, Smart Start will send your last report readings to Driver Fitness and Monitoring.

You will need to arrange with an Alberta registry agent to get your unrestricted driver’s licence.

Additional suspensions

If you receive another driving suspension or are criminally convicted while you are in the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program, you have the option to:

  • remove the interlock device from your vehicle to serve any suspension/prohibition term and have it reinstalled once you are ready to fulfil the reinstatement requirements of the IRS FAIL Ignition Interlock Program, or
  • keep the interlock device in your vehicle during the suspension/prohibition term even though you are not legally permitted to drive, provided you pay the monthly lease costs with the service provider

You are responsible for any costs associated with maintaining, removing or reinstalling the interlock device.

If you have the interlock device removed, once you have served the additional suspension/prohibition term, you can schedule an appointment with Smart Start to reinstall the interlock device in your vehicle. Once the interlock device is reinstalled, you must be reissued a restricted driver’s licence from an Alberta registry agent and you will be re-informed of the AALS end date as indicated on the Notice of Suspension.

Contact

Connect with Driver Fitness and Monitoring:

Driver fitness monitoring contact form
Phone: 780-427-8230
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)

Ignition interlock installation

For information on interlock device installation:

Website: Smart Start
Toll free: 1-844-432-4776 (in Alberta)