Drug- and alcohol-impaired driving legislation changes
Bill 29 has been passed to update impaired-driving offences and sanctions to include drug-impaired driving.
Status: Bill 29 passed Nov 29, 2017
Ministry responsible: Transportation
The Government of Canada has introduced legislation to legalize cannabis in Canada. As part of this work it proposed legal limits for cannabis and cannabis/alcohol combinations, and updated penalties for drug-impaired driving under the Criminal Code of Canada.
The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that one of Alberta's sanctions for impaired driving is unconstitutional. The ruling stated that suspending licences until a matter is resolved in court infringes on an individual's Charter rights. The court gave the province until May 18, 2018 to remedy the situation.
Bill 29: An Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol-Impaired Driving has been passed to address these changes, deter impaired driving and improve safety on our roads.
The bill amends Alberta's Traffic Safety Act to:
- reflect changes being made to federal impaired driving laws
- expand impaired-driving rules for new drivers
- address the Alberta Court of Appeal ruling
Federal impaired-driving changes
If passed, proposed federal legislation would create new drug-impaired driving offences with specified blood-drug concentration (BDC) limits for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main mind-altering ingredient found in cannabis, and some updated penalties for impaired driving.
|Blood concentration level||Federal criminal penalty *|
|2 nanograms (ng) per milliletre (ml)
but less than 5 ng/ml THC
|Maximum $1,000 fine (summary conviction)|
5 ng/ml or more THC **
2.5 ng/ml or more THC combined
1st offence: Minimum $1,000 fine
2nd offence: Mandatory 30 days imprisonment
3rd offence: Mandatory 120 days imprisonment
* Penalties are more serious for drivers who have high levels of impairment or who injure or kill others while driving impaired, and those who are repeat offenders.
** This section also includes penalties for exceeding any blood drug concentration as established in federal regulations. THC is just the first. Limits for illegal drugs may follow.
Information on other changes to federal impaired driving laws is available on the Government of Canada website.
Provincial impaired-driving changes
Changes to Alberta's Traffic Safety Act include:
- Expanded zero tolerance for drivers in the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. In addition to zero tolerance for alcohol, there will be zero tolerance for cannabis, cannabis/alcohol combination and illegal drugs in the blood stream.
- Provincial sanctions for drivers with a blood drug concentration or blood drug/alcohol concentration over the limits outlined in regulations under the Criminal Code of Canada. The sanctions will be the same as those for existing criminal impaired-driving offences, such as alcohol-impaired driving, including:
- immediate licence suspension
- vehicle seizure
- remedial education
- participation in an ignition interlock program
- An immediate 90-day, fixed-term licence suspension for drivers who meet the criteria to be charged for impaired driving under the Criminal Code of Canada, followed by participation in a one-year provincial ignition interlock program. Drivers who do not participate will remain suspended for the year. This replaces the previous sanction that suspended a driver's licence until the outcome of criminal court proceedings.
The new traffic safety laws will come into effect in 2018.
Impaired driving stats
Impaired driving is impaired driving, no matter what the substance may be.
Research from the Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction shows that, on average, cannabis use doubles the risk of being involved in a collision. They found that driving skills are negatively affected after consuming cannabis, including the reduced ability to:
- track moving objects
- respond to more than one source of information
- respond to sudden changes in driving environment
The risk of collision greatly increases if cannabis is consumed with alcohol. Mixing alcohol and drugs such as cannabis significantly increases impairment. In Alberta:
- 24.1% of all road fatalities involved a driver who tested positive for both alcohol and drugs in 2013
- 389 people were killed and 5,969 people injured in alcohol-related collisions between 2013 and 2015
We engaged with Albertans about cannabis legalization and its implications in the summer of 2017. The majority of Albertans expressed concern about the potential for increased drug-impaired driving and supported robust impaired-driving laws to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
- Alberta to bolster drug-impaired driving laws (Nov 14, 2017)