Proposed legislation giving police the authority to screen drivers for impairment would significantly reduce impaired driving rates and prevent thousands of road crashes each year, says MADD Canada.
Private Members’ Bill C-226 was introduced by the Honourable Steven Blaney, Conservative Member of Parliament for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, on February 23. Among other Criminal Code amendments, the legislation would authorize police to ask any driver to provide a breath sample.
Mandatory screening greatly increases the number of drivers screened for impairment. Drivers remain in their cars, and the process is routine and quick for sober drivers. Equally important, mandatory screening greatly increases the perception that if you drive impaired, the chance of getting caught is high.
The measure has achieved significant and sustained reductions in impaired driving crash deaths in the numerous countries which have adopted it, including New Zealand, Australia and most European countries. MADD Canada estimates mandatory screening would reduce impaired driving fatalities and injuries in Canada by about 20%, saving 200 lives and preventing more than 12,000 injuries each year.
“Mandatory screening is one of the best tools available to fight impaired driving,” said MADD Canada National President Angeliki Souranis. “We thank Mr. Blaney for his leadership on this issue and for his commitment to protecting Canadians and making our roads safer.”
Despite existing laws, and education and awareness efforts, impaired driving continues to be a deadly problem in Canada. Each year, hundreds of people are killed and thousands are injured in impairment-related crashes.
“This is a crime that claims nearly twice as many lives each year in Canada as all forms of homicide combined, and it is entirely preventable,” said Ms. Souranis. “Mandatory screening offers a cost-efficient and effective way to dramatically reduce the tragic deaths and injuries caused by impaired driving.”
Millions of Canadians continue to drink and drive with little fear of being stopped and tested, let alone charged and convicted. Canada has fallen far behind other countries with respect to tools and technology to detect, apprehend and prosecute alcohol and drug-impaired drivers.
“To deter impaired driving and prevent crashes, deaths and injuries, we need measures that change people’s behaviours,” said MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer Andrew Murie. “We need laws that deter them from getting behind the wheel when they are impaired because the likelihood of being caught is high. Mandatory screening does that. These
tests would take just a couple of minutes of the driver’s time, and yet the impact, in terms of improving road safety and decreasing impaired driving rates, is considerable.”
“This would be a major step forward in the fight to stop impaired driving,” Mr. Murie said.
Mandatory screening – along with several other measures to reduce impaired driving – was recommended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2009 and was subsequently accepted in principle by the Government of the day.
MADD Canada has promoted the need for mandatory screening in Canada for several years. The organization has undertaken a number of initiatives and analyses to determine the cost, impact and constitutional issues associated with mandatory screening:
- Mandatory screening would save $4.3 billion in health-related expenditures, lost productivity and other social costs. While mandatory screening will undoubtedly increase certain police enforcement costs, these will be largely offset by a reduction in the police resources devoted to attending and following up on impairment-related crashes.
- As with most changes to police enforcement powers, mandatory screening will likely be challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, legal and constitutional experts agree it will withstand legal challenge.
- A 2010 Ipsos Reid poll indicated 77% of Canadians would support mandatory screening.
About MADD Canada
MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads. For more information, visit www.madd.ca.