Public Policy Initiatives - Random Breath Testing
Impaired driving is a serious and persistent problem in Canada. Barely a day goes by when news reports do not contain a story on impaired driving. Sometimes the impaired driver is taken off the road and charged before something terrible occurs. Sadly, in other instances, the reports contain the tragic news that yet another person has been killed or injured by an impaired driver.
Every year, impaired driving claims between 1,250 and 1,500 lives and caused close to 64,000 injuries (estimates based on 2010 statistics).
Canada has an opportunity right now to introduce a new anti-impaired driving measure which will save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of injuries each year.
Random breath testing is a roadside breath screening test to detect impaired drivers. It is used mainly at stationary checkstops where every passing driver is required to stop and give a breath sample. Drivers remain in their cars, and the process is routine, quick and causes minimal delays for sober drivers.
Random breath testing is widely acknowledged as one of the most effective means of deterring impaired driving. It has been adopted in New Zealand, Australia and most European countries, and has helped to reduce overall road crashes and fatalities.
Canada needs random breath testing to deter those individuals who continue to put others at risk by driving impaired.
Existing breath screening laws do not serve as a meaningful deterrent to impaired driving. As the law stands now, police can only demand a roadside breath sample if they have reasonable grounds to suspect the driver has been drinking. They must rely on behavioural clues and observations. The problem is, however, that people not always exhibit obvious signs of intoxication, particularly those who routinely drink and drive. As a result, the majority of drinking drivers go undetected at sobriety checkpoints. In fact, data indicates a person would have to drive impaired, on average, once a week, every week, for more than 3 years before being charged with impaired driving offence, and for more than 6 years before being convicted.
It is time to bring this important anti-impaired driving measure to Canada so that we can reduce the impairment-related deaths and injuries occurring on our roads.
MADD Canada encourages the government to move forward with the recommendations of its own Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and bring random breath testing to Canada.
For more information on random breath testing, please see the links below.
- MADD Canada Calls for Introduction of Random Breath Testing – Press Release
- Canadian Attitudes Toward Random Breath Testing – A Survey by Ipsos Reid
- Random Breath Testing: A Canadian Perspective
- Constitutional Power of Random Breath Testing
- Predicting the Impact of RBT on Police Resources, Social Costs and Driver Inconvenience (Criminal Law Quarterly)
- The Case for Comprehensive Random Breath Testing Programs in Canada – Reviewing the Evidence and Challenges (Alberta Law Review)
- The Impact of Implementing Random Breath Testing on Criminal Justice System Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions about Random Breath Testing