Thursday, 04 January 2018 10:58

Drunk driving still (and will be more of) an issue on the prairies

Written by  Ryan Dahlman
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Drunk driving continues to be a problem on the prairies.

The Saskatchewan RCMP were busy, but at least it was better than during the same time frame as last year.
According to a RCMP press release issued Jan. 3, from Dec. 24 and Jan. 1 RCMP throughout the province charged 21 individuals with Impaired Operation over 80 mg% of a motor vehicle, no one  refused a breath sample (considered the same as blowing over 80-mg% while eight individuals received an alcohol-related roadside suspension.
By comparison, over the same period of time last year (Dec. 24, 2016 – Jan. 1, 2017),  29 individuals were charged with Impaired Operation over 80-mg% of a Motor Vehicle; three individuals refused a breath sample (considered the same as blowing over 80-mg%) and 14 individuals received an alcohol-related roadside suspension.
Better, but still scary. Saskatchewan has had the highest number of drunk drivers per capita nationally for a number of years in recent memory.
In 2016, 57 people died as a result of impaired driving, which is 46 per cent of all collision fatalities that year.
Meanwhile in Alberta, drunk driving laws will inevitably change.
A Dec. 29 story on CBC News Calgary's website indicated that drunk driving laws in Alberta will indeed change but if the CBCreport comes to fruition, in an unexpected way..
The necessity of change will happen because the Alberta Court of Appeal struck down Alberta’s previous stricter laws (Bill 29) as they were declared unconstitutional because of a impaired driving case where the arrested driver appealed because ‘the suspension was tied to the conviction.’
Now, according to rumored changes reported by the CBC, law enforcement will be given the discretion to issue fines, roadside towing/licence suspensions vs. criminal charges. In a sense, it would be like decriminalizing drunk driving.
The advantages to this method apparently is the court system will have more time to prosecute the more serious cases.
There is that thought though that it actually creates more grey area.
Having police use their discretion, further drives away from Saskatchewan laws which were toughened and more towards B.C. which is more discretionary.
Impaired driving will never be eradicated and now with the legal availability of marijuana July 1, the opportunity for more impaired operation of vehicles with first time or ‘under law enforcement officers’ discretion’ temporary suspensions, all signs point to more such drivers.
May sound like “Chicken Little” doom and gloom but 2018 will be a year of change, adjustment and grey areas.
The only certainty is that lawyers and other legal professionals along with law enforcement agents will be sadly and unfortunately be busy.
(Ryan Dahlman is the managing editor of Prairie Post and Prairie Post West. If you would like to comment or would like to write a letter to the editor email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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