Mandatory Alcohol Screening Becomes Law in Canada.
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.
In June 2018, the Government of Canada passed legislation which will introduce mandatory alcohol screening to Canada. This is one of the single most effective anti-impaired driving measures available, and it 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.
There is more than 4 decades of international research showing the effectiveness of mandatory alcohol screening. It has been adopted in New Zealand, Australia and most European countries, and has helped to reduce overall road crashes and fatalities.
Existing breath screening laws have not served as a meaningful deterrent to impaired driving. Under the previous law, police could only demand a roadside breath sample if they had reasonable grounds to suspect the driver had been drinking. They had to 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 have been going undetected at sobriety checkpoints. In fact, data indicates that under the previous law, 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.
MADD Canada has long called for the introduction of mandatory alcohol screening. We are extremely pleased to see this life-saving measure finally become law in Canada. This is a major step forward in the fight to stop impaired driving.
For more information, please see Mandatory Alcohol Screening in our Resource Library.
- Why Canada Needs Mandatory Screening, May 2017
- MADD Canada Urges Senate to Restore Mandatory Alcohol Screening to Bill C-46
- The Senate shouldn’t block random roadside alcohol tests, Toronto Star editorial, May 28, 2018
In June 2018, the Government of Canada passed legislation to significantly reform and strengthen Canada’s impaired driving laws. Bill C-46 will improve screening and detection measures for drivers impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The new laws include:
- Driving limits, new roadside testing measures and new charges and penalties for drugged driving.
- Mandatory alcohol screening.
- Closing legal loopholes which have enabled impaired drivers to avoid liability.
- Increased minimum fines for impaired drivers with high BACs.
MADD Canada welcomes these new laws. 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.