This release was issued under a previous government.

With 96 deaths and 1,384 injuries caused by impaired driving on Alberta roads last year, Alberta has introduced new legislation aimed at improving safety on the province’s roads. 

Bill 26, the Alberta Traffic Safety Amendment Act 2011, introduced in the Alberta Legislature by Transportation Minister Ray Danyluk, imposes tougher sanctions on impaired drivers, especially repeat offenders.

“Not only does Alberta’s approach target repeat offenders, it is designed to reduce the number of drivers who become repeat offenders in the first place,” said Danyluk. “I have one goal for this legislation - and that is having more Albertans arrive home safe at the end of the day.”

Alberta’s approach is based on research into actions that change behaviours.  It introduces differing levels of response for differing situations, from hard sanctions for repeat offenders to consequence-based actions for first-time offenders.  Education is a big component with the addition of enhanced monitoring and mandatory education and treatment programs for repeat offences.  Alberta also proposes vehicle seizures as a meaningful consequence to influence driver behaviour.

Bill 26 proposes the toughest sanctions for drivers with a blood-alcohol content over .08, the legal limit under the Criminal Code.  For example, these drivers would now have an immediate license suspension that remains in place until their criminal conviction is resolved in the courts.  Upon conviction, they would also have to participate in the Mandatory Ignition Interlock program.

While 24-hour license suspensions can currently be given to drivers with a BAC from .05 up to .08, the Bill proposes progressive sanctions for drivers in this range.  To support the proposed legislation, new regulatory changes would also enhance restrictions for novice drivers.

The Bill was championed by Danyluk along with Attorney General and Minister of Justice Verlyn Olson and Minister of Solicitor General and Public Security Jonathan Denis. This integrated approach balances enforcement with education and prevention, while maintaining a process to address appeals.

"Suspensions for drivers between .05 and .08 are nothing new in Alberta," said Olson. "What this legislation would introduce are new education programs and sanctions for these drivers, new mechanisms to track repeat offenders and new, tougher, penalties for drivers who are caught over .08."

“Alberta’s approach targets those most likely to repeatedly drive drunk,” said Denis. “It’s about changing driver behaviour through enforcing tougher sanctions.” 

More information, including frequently asked questions, is available at http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/

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Backgrounder: Questions and answers and fact sheet

Media inquiries may be directed to:

Donna Babchishin
Communications
Alberta Transportation
780-415-1841
donna.babchishin@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.

Backgrounder

Questions and answers: Alberta’s proposed impaired driving law

What are the biggest areas of change?

  • Alberta’s approach focuses on three areas: repeat offenders, new drivers and drivers with BAC from .05 up to .08.  The toughest sanctions are being proposed for Criminal Code offences and repeat offences.  
  • Bill 26 proposes an expansion of existing measures.  For example, Alberta already issues licence suspensions for drivers in the range of .05 to .08. and we already use the ignition interlock for the more serious criminal offences.
  • Vehicle seizures would be a new sanction in all categories of offence related to blood-alcohol content.
  • There is a new focus on driver behaviour change and mandatory courses.

Criminal Code offences (BAC over .08):

What are the new sanctions proposed for drivers with a BAC over .08?

  • An immediate licence suspension would be issued and would be sustained until the criminal charge is resolved in the courts.
  • Upon criminal conviction, the driver would automatically be required to participate in the Mandatory Ignition Interlock program at their own cost.
  • Progressive sanctions would include:
    • First offence - A sustained licence suspension until the criminal charge is resolved, a three-day vehicle seizure, and one-year participation in the Mandatory Interlock Program.
    • Second offence - A sustained licence suspension until the criminal charge is resolved, a seven-day vehicle seizure, three-year participation in the Mandatory Interlock program.
    • Third and subsequent offence - A sustained licence suspension until the criminal charge is resolved, a seven-day vehicle seizure, five-year participation in the Mandatory Interlock program, plus a mandatory review by the Alberta Traffic Safety Board, and possible additional assessment and monitoring period.

What is an ignition interlock device and why is it used?

  • An ignition interlock device is an instrument installed in a motor vehicle that measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath.  If the person provides a fail, it will not allow the person to start the vehicle.  The Mandatory Ignition Interlock program has proven successful in changing behaviours in Alberta.

How is the mandatory interlock program currently applied in Alberta?

  • In Alberta, it is currently applied on a six-month basis when a driver has:
    • More than one offence within a 10-year period,
    • A BAC more than double the legal limit (over .16), or
    • Refused a lawful demand for a breath sample.

Enhanced sanctions for drivers with BAC from .05 up to .08:

What are the sanctions proposed for drivers with a BAC from .05 up to .08?

  • Being stopped for the first time with a BAC between .05 and .08 would result in a three-day licence suspension and a three-day vehicle seizure.
  • Progressive sanctions would occur for repeat offences:
    • A 15-day license suspension and seven-day vehicle seizure for second offence, plus a remedial course
    • A 30-day licence suspension and seven-day vehicle seizure for third and subsequent offences, plus a mandatory board hearing and remedial course
  • There is nothing new in imposing licensing consequences for drivers with a blood alcohol level of .05 in Alberta.  This is the standard level where police currently issue a 24-hour suspension.
  • Alberta has used a 24-hour license suspension for many years, when a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both, or driving ability is affected by a physical or medical condition.
  • People with from .05 up to .08 BAC are not subject to Criminal Code charges and would not get a criminal record.  They would not receive fines or demerit points.  Any costs would be associated with consequences such as getting their vehicle back and their license reinstated.

New drivers

What are the recommended changes for the new drivers?

  • Under regulation, Alberta is also proposing changes to the Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) program.
  • All GDL drivers are currently subject to zero tolerance for blood-alcohol content.  Right now, they are subject to a 24-hour licence suspension, then a seven-day grace period followed by a 30-day suspension.
  • GDL drivers found with any BAC would receive an immediate 30-day licence suspension and a seven-day vehicle seizure.
  • There are no other changes proposed for drivers in the initial “Learner” stage where significant restrictions currently apply and drivers are actually experiencing fewer collisions.
  • Changes would focus on a high-risk stage which is the initial six months after a driver graduates from “Learner” to “Novice” driver status.  During this six month period, “Novice” drivers would be limited to one teenage passenger unless it is a family member or unless a fully licensed driver over age 18 is supervising.  They would also be restricted from driving between midnight and 5 a.m.

Made-in-Alberta approach:

How is Alberta’s approach to creating tougher impaired driving laws different than others?

  • Alberta’s approach is comprehensive. Study after study in jurisdictions around the world have demonstrated that no single approach to addressing impaired driving is as effective as a multi-faceted approach, like the one we are now considering.
  • Alberta has made the decision not to issue fines or demerit points. There is no evidence that fines which are provided to general revenues have a significant impact on drinking and driving.  Our emphasis is on personal impacts that change behaviours.
  • All costs related to sanctions will be the responsibility of the offender, not the taxpayer. The costs incurred would relate to towing and impound fees, relicensing and registry fees, and course fees for second and third offences.  Criminal Code offenders also pay for the cost of the ignition interlock devices.
  • Education is a major component in Alberta’s approach.
  • Alberta would ensure appropriate appeals are in place for the appropriate level of offence.  Alberta’s appeals process would be handled by the Alberta Transportation Safety Board which has an independent tribunal process to handle appeals fairly.
  • Every province in Canada, with the exception of Quebec, imposes license consequences on drivers at .05 or above (Saskatchewan starts at .04). BC, Saskatchewan and Ontario already impose significant restrictions.
  • Alberta is proposing to use the existing ten-year driving record, the longest in Canada, to identify high-risk reoffending drivers.
  • Alberta’s Traffic Safety Plan and successful programs such as the Ignition Interlock program and the courses have shown that we can have a real impact on results on Alberta’s roads.  We are committed to enhancing these efforts.
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Media inquiries may be directed to:

Donna Babchishin
Communications
Alberta Transportation
780-415-1841
donna.babchishin@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.