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Disagreements About the New Impaired Driving Laws

Under the recently amended BC Motor Vehicle Act, blowing over the blood alcohol level of .05 leads to an immediate—at the roadside—3-day loss of your driver’s licence, a $200 administrative penalty, a $250 licence reinstatement fee and, for repeat offenders, escalating consequences.

The police have the discretion to impound your vehicle for 3 days—longer if you are a repeat offender—and you will be liable for the towing and storage costs. Excessive speeders, excessive tailgaters, street racers, and reckless drivers also face, in addition to existing driver risk premium penalties and fines, immediate vehicle impoundment: 7 days for those travelling 40 kmh or more over the posted limit escalating to 30 or 60 days for repeat offenders, plus towing and storage costs.
 
BC’s Solicitor General justified these new rules on the basis of statistics showing a rise in impaired driving in BC, but cited annual averages of 133 fatalities and 3,000 injuries from impaired driving. The province, he said, has set a goal in honour of four year old Alexa Middelaer, who was killed by a drunk driver in Delta in 2008, to reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by 35% by the end of 2013 which, taking into account projected increases in BC’s population should bring the numbers down to 94 average annual fatalities.
 
Excessive speeders were targeted because “speeding is the number-one contributing factor to motor vehicle fatalities. According to the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC), police catch about 10,000 excessive speeders annually.” The Solicitor General also said, “When someone gets behind the wheel of a car and drives drunk or speeds excessively,
it’s no accident, it’s a deliberate choice.”
 
Within minutes of the new rules coming into effect, the police were issuing prohibitions. But energized enforcement aside, many people are debating these changes. Responsible citizens are unclear about how many drinks they can have. Many factors affect blood-alcohol levels. Universal condemnation of drunk driving is tempered by concerns about unpersuasive statistical justification for the changes and the lack of due process—some see the changes moving us toward a “police state.”
 
Some suggest that the changes are merely “a money grab by the province.” Some call the changes “overkill,” “ridiculously overwrought” and needlessly aimed at responsible people and not the real culprits, the repeat offenders. Some say the fines and penalties are too punitive for low wage earners while “hardly a kick at all” for owners of “investment portfolios.”
 
The defenders say, “saving even one child’s life is worth it;” “a fine and an impound are harsh lessons, but far less than an early grave;” and “the new law is aimed at irresponsible drivers who “ judge themselves sober when they are impaired.” Some offer alternative ‘solutions’: universal ignition interlocks, speed governors, and photo radar. Some explore the new roles for public transit and the taxi companies. …Lots of debate and, hopefully, lots more road safety.
 
Whatever the immediate motivation for the legal changes might be, this is a trend that started in Europe, was inevitable, and is irreversible.

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