Tougher impaired driving laws coming for Saskatchewan drivers

Saskatchewan’s impaired driving rate is nearly triple the national average.
Saskatchewan’s impaired driving rate is nearly triple the national average. (REUTERS/Geoff Howe)

Tougher impaired driving laws are a pressing issue across the country but in Saskatchewan, it’s especially critical. Saskatchewan’s impaired driving rates are 620 per 100,000 people, which is nearly triple the national average. This makes Saskatchewan the province with the highest impaired driving rate in the country.

Now the government is doing something about it by introducing some of the toughest new impaired driving laws in the country, which come into effect on January 1, 2017.

“Once passed, Saskatchewan will join Alberta and British Columbia in having some of the most effective impaired driving legislation in Canada,” Saskatchewan Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant explained.

The government decided to quickly implement tougher driving laws after experiencing almost 1,200 impaired driving accidents in 2015. 39 per cent of drivers involved in these accidents were found to have a Blood Alcohol Concentration lower than 0.08, which is why the province decided to partially target impaired drivers with a BAC of between 0.04 and 0.08.

Some key changes designed to crack down on impaired drivers include:

  • A new mandatory three day vehicle impounding policy for experienced drivers with a BAC of 0.04 to 0.08 for a first offence;
  • New and much tougher ignition interlock rules for drivers with a BAC over 0.16;
  • A new zero tolerance policy in regards to alcohol and drugs raising the age from 19 to 21. The punishment is an automatic 60-day license suspension for a first offence.

Some are skeptical about raising the age for the zero tolerance policy, saying it makes no difference if a person is “21 or 43,” because the level of irresponsibility is the same.

However, the age increase for the zero tolerance policy seems significant in fighting impaired driving in the province. The government reported that drivers aged 19 to 21, “are involved in significantly more alcohol-related collisions compared to drivers under 19.”

The government is also toughening the law when it comes to distracted driving. Drivers can’t hold or even view their cellphone while driving. The old law prohibited only the use of the device.
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