There’s still a bit of confusion in the minds of the driving public about the status of B.C.’s drunk driving laws, said Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner.
“People need to know that the new penalties were upheld in a recent court ruling, so everyone should be careful if they’re out celebrating,” he warned.
There has been “wall-to-wall media coverage” on the topic ever since a B.C. judge struck down provisions of the law that have to do with on-the-spot prohibitions after a motorist fails a breathalyzer test.
A court ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 30 said costs and roadside suspensions, when a driver blows over .08, went “too far” without offering an appeal mechanism, said Penner.
But people need to know the criminal code charges for driving over the limit are still in effect, he argued.
The annual CounterAttack campaign in early December was launched across B.C. just days after the court decision.
“The simplest thing is don’t drink and drive,” Penner said. “If you’re worried about getting dinged, it’s simple. Don’t do it.”
Why is it important to remind people?
Allan Lamb, president of the BCAA Road Safety Foundation said it’s because a significant number of drivers “still get behind the wheel” after they’ve become impaired by alcohol or drugs.
“There is an increase in social events at this time of year and a large number of those driving impaired are coming from the company of friends, colleagues and family,” said Lamb.
“It is simply not an option to drive impaired or to allow someone you know may be impaired to leave your company and get behind the wheel of a car.”
Premier Christy Clark announced last month that alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths had been reduced by 40 per cent, during the one-year period under Canada’s toughest penalties for impaired driving. Funding for a mobile road safety bus that will focus on impaired driving education and enforcement.
“The BCAA Road Safety Foundation and the Middelaer family are encouraged by these two announcements and are pleased that British Columbians are working to save the lives of their friends, neighbours, co-workers and family members,” added Lamb.
Referring to the recent court ruling, Lamb reminds drivers that police are enforcing impaired driving laws and any driver that blows over .08 will still face the possibility of charges under the Criminal Code.
The fact is an estimated 45 people are still alive today thanks to the legislation, who would have been killed due to someone choosing to drink and drive, Penner said.
“Some people may wonder why we did it (toughened up the laws) and the answer is because people die,” said Penner, the former Attorney General of B.C.
The 45 figure comes from comparing the average number of people dying in impaired driving crashes in the last five to 10 years.
“It has scared people into reducing the amount of alcohol they consume before they get behind the wheel,” he added.
Since the B.C. government introduced the immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) for impaired driving, the number of criminal code cases went from 9458 per year to 2442. Before they did it, drunk driving cases took up more court time than any other code violation.
“That’s a difference of 6,000 to 7,000 fewer cases clogging up the court system in one year,” said Penner.