Impaired driving is a serious and persistent problem in Canada. Barely a day goes by without a news report on impaired driving. Sometimes the impaired driver is taken off the road and charged before something terrible occurs. Sadly, in other instances, there is the tragic news that yet another person has been killed or injured by an impaired driver.
Canada has an opportunity 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. For more information, please see Mandatory Alcohol Screening in our Resource Library.
In April 2017, the Government of Canada proposed legislation to significantly reform and strengthen Canada’s impaired driving laws. If passed, Bill C-46 will improve screening and detection measures for drivers impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. Key among the measures being proposed:
- Introduce driving limits, new roadside testing measures and new charges and penalties for drugged driving.
- Introduce mandatory alcohol screening.
- Close legal loopholes which have enabled impaired drivers to avoid liability.
- Increase minimum fines for impaired drivers with high BACs.
MADD Canada welcomes these proposed new measures. They are entirely consistent with policies and tools MADD Canada has identified to address the impaired driving problem in Canada, and will effectively reduce impaired driving and prevent crashes, deaths and injuries.