The Government of Saskatchewan is planning to implement harsher penalties to try and reduce drinking and driving rates in the province.
SGI Minister Joe Hargrave made the announcement in the Legislature Monday afternoon.
The new rules include:
- An instant three-day vehicle seizures for drivers with a blood alcohol content between .04 and .08 on a first offence.
- Raising the cutoff age for zero BAC tolerance from 19 to 21, with a 60-day licence suspension on first offence
- Increasing mandatory ignition interlock periods for repeat offenders
The new rules, if approved, would take effect January 1, 2017.
Hargrave touted the success of similar rules in British Columbia, where immediate vehicle seizures helped halve the drinking and driving rate in the province. However, he said court challenges to the B.C. laws encouraged his ministry to implement rules more gradually.
“We want to make sure we get it all done right,” he said. “We want to make a made-in-Saskatchewan model.”
Saskatchewan has the highest drinking and driving rate per-capita across all the provinces in Canada.
The province will also be providing $1.3 million in funding to law enforcement to increase police check stops and add more automatic licence plate readers across the province.
The ALPRs scan licence plates of vehicles passing by a police cruiser, notifying the officer if the plate is stolen or unregistered. It can also determine if the driver associated with the plate is suspended or wanted by police.
There are currently 15 ALPR units used in Saskatchewan. The new funding will bring that number to 47.
Families of drunk driving victims were present at a morning ceremony to introduce the legislation. They said while there’s still room for improvement, the new legislation is a step forward.
“I’m happy with it,” said Louis Van De Vorst, whose son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren were killed in a crash in January. “But I know it’s just the beginning.”
He added that beyond penalties, Saskatchewan and Canada need to realize drinking and driving is a social problem.
“Nobody should have to go through what my family went through,” he said, pointing to a new SGI ad campaign that depicts family members disappearing as a good representation.
“That’s exactly what happens. Fourteen people at your dinner table, and all of a sudden four of them are gone.”
Alyscia Kaufmann, whose husband was killed in the spring, said people need to realize their choices have consequences.
“It affects families and family units,” she said. “Something needs to happen now, the culture needs to change.”
She referred to a recent survey which indicated nearly 20 per cent of Saskatchewan residents believe drinking and driving is okay if it’s a short distance on a quiet road.
“Those back quiet roads was a road Tanner was on,” she said. “People think it won’t happen if you take the back way home, but it obviously can.”
PUT THE SMARTPHONE AWAY
Along with the tougher penalties for impaired drivers, the government will also be closing loopholes when it comes to distracted driving.
The legislation will be changed to ban drivers from holding, viewing, using or manipulating a cell phone while driving. The law currently prohibits the “use” of a cell phone.
The new language is designed to prevent the government from losing court cases over what drivers were doing with their phones when pulled over.
“It couldn’t be established that they were using their cell phones,” said Minister of Justice Gordon Wyant. “A number of other provinces have done this so we think it’s an appropriate way to go.”
— With files from Sarah Mills