BC’s tough administrative penalties for drinking and driving return to the roadside on June 15, backed by a more fair, rigorous roadside and appeal process that became law this spring. Williams Lake MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) President Bob Macintosh said that this law forces people to pay attention, and that he's glad to see it back.
“I think having this law back in full force is great,” he stated. “When it was enforced on the streets it worked very well to make people consider what they’re doing when they get behind the wheel of a car.”
He noted that any reduction in drinking/driving incidents, any increase in drinking drivers taken off the road, is good news. “Impaired driving creates so many problems on our highways and in our communities,” he explained. “These are tragedies—it’s so often the innocent who are the victims and suffer the most.”
The procedural changes preserve the life-saving, deterrent value of Canada's toughest provincial penalties for alcohol-impaired driving, which first came into effect in September 2010. The BC government's goal of reducing impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013 has already been surpassed.
Our most-recent analysis shows that we have significantly exceeded the initial targets. Compared to the average over the previous five years, alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths have dropped by 44 per cent since the law came into force- with an estimated 71 lives saved.
The amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act respond to a BC Supreme Court ruling that the original administrative review process did not provide a driver with the ability to meaningfully challenge the ‘fail’ result of a roadside breath test.
The amendments also enhance the fairness of both roadside and appeal processes. The following conditions now apply, regardless of whether a driver provides either a 'warn' or 'fail' breath sample at the roadside:
* Police must advise drivers of their right to a second breath test on a second approved screening device (ASD). In the past, officers were not legally required to inform drivers of this right.
* Police must tell drivers that the lower of the two readings will prevail. Previously, the results of a second test prevailed, whether higher or lower.
* Grounds for administrative review now include the reliability of the
ASD results, whether police advised the driver of his or her right to a second test, whether police conducted that second breath test on a second ASD, and whether the IRP was issued on the basis of the lowest reading. These grounds reflect the expanded requirements of police officers at the roadside.
* Police officers must provide sworn reports to the superintendent of motor vehicles for every immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) they issue - increasing the evidentiary standard of the officers' submissions.
* Police officers must also submit documentation attesting to the
calibration accuracy of the ASD device or devices that were used.
These changes mean, effective June 15, IRPs resume as an alternative to the full Criminal Code process for drivers found in excess of the legal limit of .08 per cent blood-alcohol content at the roadside- the default approach for police since the court ruling last November.
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