New Law Aims to Reduce Impaired Driving

On December 18, 2018, new impaired driving laws went into effect across the country. From now on, if you’re pulled over by a police officer for any reason they no longer need reasonable suspicion—in the past that was slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, or generally strange behavior—to demand a breath sample. Those who support the new legislature say it will make roads safer by making people think twice before getting in their car (Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) predicts it will reduce roadside deaths); those who don’t say it gives law enforcement an unprecedented amount of power that might actually violate a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Here’s a brief history of impaired driving laws in Canada:

Canadian Criminal Law Amendment Act (commonly known as the “Breathalizer Legislation”) – 1969
Based on British legislation from two years prior, this act set the basis for our modern impaired driving laws. The law made it illegal to drive a motor vehicle with a BAC exceeding 0.08%. It also gave law enforcement the authority to administer roadside breathalyzer tests to anyone reasonably suspected of being impaired (and made it an offence to refuse these tests).

Bill C-19 – 1985
This legislation introduced harsher penalties and two new charges, and gave law enforcement the authority to obtain a blood sample when a breath sample could not be obtained.

Supreme Court Ruling – 1986
A year after Bill C-19, the Supreme Court decided that police could suspend a driver’s license for 24 hours instead of arresting them.

Roadside check stops in the 70s and the formation of groups like MADD in the 80s contributed to public awareness and stigmatization of impaired driving.

MADD says that drug- or alcohol-related crashes kill four Canadians a day; combined they represent the leading criminal cause of death in the country.

Resource Consulted
Impaired Driving | The Canadian Encyclopedia