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.
Mandatory screening (previously called 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.
Mandatory screening 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 mandatory screening 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, please see Mandatory Alcohol Screening in our Resource Library.
Bill C-226 includes provisions to authorize the use of mandatory alcohol screening in Canada. It was introduced in February 2016 as a Private Members’ Bill by Member of Parliament Steven Blaney. The Bill has passed first and second reading in the House of Commons and is currently being reviewed by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
MADD Canada was honoured to appear before that Committee on February 6, 2017 to make a presentation in support of mandatory screening.
MADD Canada’s written presentation to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security can be downloaded here. To read MADD Canada’s verbal presentation, as well as other witnesses who appeared before the Committee on February 6, please see the full transcript here.