MADD says Canada’s new impaired driving laws can save lives

Published: December 29, 2018

Updated: February 1, 2019

Author: Luke Jones

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Canada’s tough new impaired driving laws are less than two weeks old, but Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada (MADD Canada) believes the changes are positive. The awareness group says the laws will help decrease the number of fatal collisions involving drunk drivers.

“It’s probably the most significant change in legislation around impaired driving since probably the breathalyzer was brought in 1969,” Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Monday.

“It will have a huge impact right away.”

As a charitable organization, MADD Canada has been one of the leaders in calling for stricter laws and penalties. Murie points out it has been a 10-year battle for the group.

Tougher impaired driving laws allow police to demand a roadside breathalyzer test from any driver. Previously, officers needed to have suspicion of impaired driving to initiate a breathalyzer. Under the new rules they can conduct a test without any suspicion and on any motorist.

Drivers caused driving under the influence of drink or drugs will also face harsher penalties. However, some have criticized the ability to allow police to conduct random stops without suspicion. Some lawmakers insist the changes violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Department of Justice says police will now have the power to catch suspected impaired drivers:

“As research shows that many impaired drivers are able to escape detection at check stops, this authority would help police detect more drivers who are ‘over 80’ and reduce litigation regarding whether or not the officer had a reasonable suspicion,” its website reads.

While the new laws are controversial for some, Murie insists there is global evidence to suggest mandatory screening is successful in preventing impaired driving. Mandatory screening has been adopted in Austria, Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

“We’re expecting somewhere in the round of 20 to 25 per cent reduction,” he said. “To put it in context, that’s 200 more families who will have their loved ones around this holiday season next year.”