Administrative licence suspension (ALS) programs were initiated in the late 70s and early 80s to address the problem of impaired drivers who, while under the Criminal Code
limit of .08% BAC, still represent a significant danger to others on the road.
As research has consistently shown, key driving-related skills are impaired at .05% and the relative risk of a crash death rises sharply at that level. By taking risky drivers off the roads, ALS programs reduce the rate of impaired driving crashes, deaths and injuries.
The programs also carry a significant deterrent value, provided they have the appropriate components. A shortcoming of the early ALS programs, and one which still exists in some provinces and jurisdictions today, is the short duration of the suspensions. Drivers often have their licences back in 24 hours or less, and that offers little incentive for them to change their behaviours.
MADD Canada first advocated for comprehensive ALS programs at .05% BAC level in its 2003Rating the Provinces and Territories Report. Working with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), we developed a model .05% Administrative Licence Suspension Program based on existing best practices in Canada. The model we recommend includes:
- 7 – 14 day licence suspension for first offences, with 30, 45 and 60 day suspensions for second, third and subsequent infractions within a three year period.
- Vehicle impoundments.
- Mandatory licence reinstatement fee of $150 – $300.
- The recording of the suspension on the drivers’ record.
- Mandatory remedial measures (alcohol assessment, education, rehabilitation) for repeat offenders.
All provinces and territories except Quebec have some form of ALS program. Few achieve the best practice model but there here have been advances in the last few years, with Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia all increasing their suspension periods.
.05% Sanctions and the Social Drinker
Critics of administrative licence suspension program argue that it penalizes the social drinker and suggest that people can no longer have a beer after work or a glass of wine with dinner because that will put them over the.05% level. The truth is a .05% BAC limit does not interfere with what most Canadians would consider to be social drinking. Based on estimates of BACs in relation to time, weight and standard Canadian drinks, a 185 lb. man can have three drinks over a two hour period and not go over the .05% BAC limit. Likewise, a 130 lb. woman can have two standard drinks over a two-hour period and not go over .05%.
The safest way, always, is to separate drinking from driving entirely. If you’re going to be drinking, plan ahead; call a cab, take public transportation or arrange for a designated driver. Driving impaired simply is not worth the risk.