Drunk driving laws tough and effective, but are they fair?

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Published July 11, 2013

There was a huge outcry when B.C.’s tough new drinking and driving laws came into effect nearly three years ago, but the results seem clear: the new laws are saving lives.

According to a study completed last month by Scott Macdonald, assistant director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addiction Research, there’s been a 42 per cent reduction in alcohol-related fatal crashes since the new laws came into effect in September 2010.

Macdonald and his team took into account that drinking and driving collisions have been dropping for three decades in North America, due to education, graduated licensing and other changes.

But over and above that drop, they say, the new laws have prevented an estimated 44 fatal collisions per year.

Macdonald credits the success of the new laws partly to the fact that they save police time. Instead of taking three hours to process one person through the Criminal Code, he told the Globe and Mail, an officer can now give an immediate sanction to a driver who blows over the legal limit, then get back on the road and look for more drinking drivers.

But the new laws have their detractors. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, for example, is an intervener in a case called Chisholm et al. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles – brought by a number of people challenging the tougher regulations.

The BCCLA believes the laws are unjust because the only evidence of impairment is the result of the roadside screening device, which it says is not as reliable as a Breatha-lyzer, and yields results that would not stand up in court. The group also says the laws are unjust because they impose severe penalties without a criminal conviction.

The presumption of being innocent until proven guilty is the cornerstone of our legal system, yet getting drunk drivers off the road saves lives.

How do we balance these competing interests? It seems the get-tough camp has already won, since it’s impossible to argue with a grieving parent holding a photo of a child who was killed by a drinking driver.

4 thoughts on “Drunk driving laws tough and effective, but are they fair?

  1. After the implementation of the new D+D administrative driving program Shirley Bond said, “we have to educate the people to follow our rules.” She never said they were fair. She never said they were the peoples rules. She said they were “our” rules.

    The ADP sidestepped the courts. No need for a judge. Designed by OSMV Superintendent Steve Martin, Asst. Stefanie Melvin, probably policy director Linda Mazzei and others in OSMV it was and is a computer based system. It is a, “one size fits all” system. Most importantly, it eliminates the human factor. It is law by numbers. 0.07 you survive. 0.08 you’re dead.

    Is it fair? No. It can’t be. A computer cannot digest all the details of the event. The computer can only output, it’s input. 0.08 means you lose and must follow the program in the computer. 90 day prohibition, one year interlock, attendance in the responsible drivers program and (everyone misses this) 5 years monitoring of your driving record.

    The computer doesn’t recognize your past history. It doesn’t care if you are able to walk and talk properly. It doesn’t care if your wife just died. It doesn’t care if you just lost your job.

    The RCMP in BC are directed to follow the rules as laid down by the computer. If the officer does not, then he or she has to answer to his or her supervisor. (I was told this by an RCMP officer.)

    I certainly have compassion for the family of Alexa Middelaer and others. To kill or injure while drunk is a sin.

    However, men and women died in wars for our liberties.

    The philosophy with this program is give up your liberty so no one dies. What’s next? Boating, Swimming, Skiing, Snowmobiling, Hang-gliding…?

    When I was young an RCMP officer would make a judgement call. Today, they are just extensions of the computer.

  2. I had failed two breathalyzer tests right out side my house and wasn’t even told why I was pulled over in the first place. I had 3 beers 3 hours before driving so I felt fit to. Now 900$ later I get a letter in the mail saying I have to pay another 942$ on top of what I’m not finished paying for to join a program. I have 21 days to answer back with either me contesting it or signing up with this program, which I can’t afford, or my license is cancelled. I tried to seek help from a lawyer for just their opinion and they told me it would cost me 200$ for an hour. Anybody I have told this to sees it as a “money grab”, and I have to agree because, if this is a system that cares. Shouldn’t this sort of thing be covered under medical? After all it’s a medical center that handles this in B.C. People like me that work on the bottom of the food chain for major corporations getting paid 10.25 an hour can’t possibly afford over 2,000$ for the “privilege” to drive. Also, people I talk to all have the same feeling when they are driving down the street and have a cop behind them. Right away we all are hoping we are obeying the rules of the road and have that feeling of (act innocent now) even though your not even doing anything wrong. It is law by numbers, if you have the money you can drive as badly as you like and get caught, if you blow over .8 your gonna kill someone, if you blow .7 we are all safe. The privilege really goes to those with money and that’s not a lot of us……

    • yes you are right; and all the Government wont is all the money they can get out of use’yes i got a prohibition my first time ever the R>C>M>P did not ask wont took place be for they were called if your over 0.8 to bad you get the full treatment ‘they treat you like shit. it cost me 600.00 to get my bike back’i told them i was not going to pay them one cent’ ass holes.

  3. I blew a point over the limit a few years ago, even though I had slept 4.5 hours before driving after drinks at a friends party. Both police officers told me that usually they wouldn’t even proceed with charges blowing over by that little but do to the fact that I still had an N as novice driver they said they had no choice.I was un employed do to giving up my job to relocate in order to be closer for visits to a relative whom was in hospital as result of a brain aneurysm as there was no other family near to visit. Therefor when ordered to do the responsible driver program I wasn’t able to afford it. Then not long after getting a new job and getting somewhat back on my feet to a point where started to put the $900 dollars together to register for the program, found out my girlfriend was pregnant with my first child. My son is 18 months old now and I still haven’t been able to get the money together to register for the program and not sure I ever will. Its been a major strain on my life and also my relationship in too many ways to list. I feel it is unfair mainly due to the fact that it is unfeasible with todays cost of living let alone raising children for anyone on a low or average income to come up with enough extra money to cover the cost of the program and all that comes with it. And not only that but the fact that from what I see in the paper everyday, criminals actually pay and suffer less over robberies among most other crimes both non violent and violent. Thanks for taking the time to read my short novel post, all just doesn’t seem right or fair at all to me among so many other people I have spoken to about it.