Albertaís approach to impaired driving
- What has changed?
The changes introduced include progressive administrative penalties for drivers with blood alcohol levels of .05 or greater, tougher penalties for drivers over .08 and a stronger zero tolerance policy for new drivers.
- What are the administrative penalties for drivers with a BAC of .05 to .08?
Previously, drivers caught with a blood alcohol concentration of .05 or greater were subject to a 24-hour suspension. Under Alberta#s new rules, these drivers get:
- A roadside sanction of a 3 day licence suspension and 3 day vehicle seizure for the first offence
- A roadside sanction of a 15 day suspension and 7 day vehicle seizure for the second offence plus a mandatory remedial course and may be referred to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board by the Registrar
- A roadside sanction of a 30 day suspension and 7 day vehicle seizure for third and subsequent offences plus a mandatory review by the Alberta Transportation Safety Board and a remedial course
- What do these changes mean for new drivers?
Alberta requires new drivers to maintain a blood alcohol level of zero. Now, if they are stopped with any blood alcohol level at all, they face an immediate 30 day suspension and 7 day vehicle seizure. Each 30 day suspension will require an additional 1 year in the Graduated Licence Program.
- How are these changes tougher on drivers caught driving over .08?
- Drivers who are over .08 continue to face criminal charges.
- As an added penalty and to keep our roads safer, their licences are now suspended immediately until their charges are resolved.
- These drivers now face a 3 or 7 day vehicle seizure.
- The use of ignition interlock devices has been expanded. For example, a first conviction nets a full year with the interlock, up from a discretionary six months. A second conviction requires 3 years of interlock and a third conviction requires 5 years of interlock.
- What is the purpose of these changes?
The fact is we have a problem in Alberta - impaired drivers are causing death on our roads. In 2010, 96 people were killed and 1,384 people were injured in alcohol-related collisions on Alberta roads.
There is also solid scientific evidence that driving with a blood alcohol level of .05 significantly increases the risk of being involved in a collision.
If we are serious about our commitment to ensuring the safety of Albertans in their communities, then it is important we act to prevent these injuries and deaths.
- Do the changes include fines or demerits? If not, why not?
There are no fines or demerits. Research shows that fines are not an effective deterrent for impaired driving. The changes involve immediate consequences, preventive measures and education.
- When were these changes implemented?
The changes were implemented during summer 2012.
- Can I still have a drink with dinner?
Everyone must exercise personal responsibility when drinking. If you feel your ability to drive is affected, you should not drive.
The intent is not to penalize those who chose an alcoholic drink at dinner*. The penalties are aimed at drivers who have consumed alcohol and it is affecting their driving. No one should drive a vehicle if they personally feel their ability is impaired, regardless of how much they have consumed.
* Responsible choices mean understanding your personal limits. For example, this statement is based upon a person with normal weight, height, tolerance to alcohol and metabolism of alcohol and who has a zero blood alcohol concentration at the time of the consumption.
A drink is considered to be a standard sized alcoholic beverage, which would be the equivalent of:
- one bottle of beer/12 ounces/341 millilitres at 5% alcohol by volume (5%v/v alcohol),
- one 5-ounce/142 millilitre glass of wine at 12% alcohol by volume (12%v/v alcohol) or
- 1.5 ounces/43 millilitres of hard liquor at 40% alcohol by volume (40%v/v alcohol).
- Why is government penalizing people who generally follow the rules? Government should target drivers who are severely impaired and who repeatedly drink and drive.
Impaired driving is a serious offence with serious consequences. This is why Alberta continues to treat drivers who are over .08 as criminals, to be prosecuted under the federal Criminal Code. The changes introduced the toughest penalties for these drivers, for example, seizing their vehicles and suspending their licences until their criminal charges are resolved.
Tougher administrative penalties for drivers at .05 or greater serve as an early intervention, giving some drivers the help they need to avoid future criminal charges. This ultimately amounts to an overall reduction in the number of drivers over .08.
Studies have also shown that those who drive with a blood alcohol concentration at .05 or greater are much more likely to be involved in a collision. These drivers pose a very serious risk to themselves and everyone else on the road.†
- Do these changes "decriminalize" drunk driving?
Impaired driving is a serious offence with serious consequences. This is why Alberta continues to treat drivers who are over .08 as criminals to be prosecuted under the federal Criminal Code.
The changes also introduced some tougher penalties for these drivers, for example, by seizing their vehicles and suspending their licences until their criminal charges are resolved.
Administrative penalties for drivers at .05 or greater serve as an early intervention, giving some drivers the help they need to avoid reaching this level.
- Will these changes result in more people facing penalties for impaired driving, yet not having a criminal record?
No. Drivers who are over .08 will face criminal charges, they will get a criminal record and repeat offenders will be tracked and penalized accordingly.
Similarly, the administrative penalties allow us to identify repeat offenders at the .05 or greater level.
- Will Alberta increase the penalties for alcohol related driving offences under the Criminal Code?
No. The Criminal Code is federal legislation and is outside the authority of the Alberta Government.
- Under what circumstances can I be given a 24 hour suspension?
You may be issued a 24 hour licence suspension/disqualification if your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both, or your driving ability is affected by a physical and/or medical condition.
- Under what circumstances can my licence be suspended for longer than 24 hours?
Your driving privileges may be suspended for a period longer than 24 hours under the following conditions:
- If you hold a graduated driver's licence, your blood alcohol content analysis must be zero. Any reading will result in an immediate 30 day licence suspension.
- If your blood alcohol content reading is .05 or greater, you will receive a roadside suspension. The first offence results in a licence suspension of 3 days. Subsequent offences will result in an increased term of suspension to 15 days on the second offence and 30 days for 3 or more offences.
- If your blood alcohol content reading is over .08, you will receive an immediate Alberta administrative licence suspension and you will be charged with an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Your Alberta administrative licence suspension will remain in effect until the criminal charge is resolved.
- If you refuse to provide a breath sample on the demand of a peace officer, you will receive an immediate Alberta administrative licence suspension and you will be charged with an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Your Alberta administrative licence suspension will remain in effect until the criminal charge is resolved.
- If my licence is suspended, how do I get my licence reinstated after the suspension period is over?
Depending on the type of suspension, there are reinstatement conditions applicable to each type of suspension. This may include attending an impaired driving course, using an ignition interlock device, attending a hearing with the Alberta Transportation Safety Board, meeting applicable reinstatement conditions, completing a road test and completing knowledge testing if the licence suspension is three years or more.
- If my licence is suspended, will I need to pay for its reinstatement and what is the cost?
Yes, you will be required to pay $13.00 Government Fee plus $9.00 (plus GST) Alberta Registry Agent Service Fees to obtain a ďRestrictedĒ or replacement Driverís Licence.
You will be required to pay a Reinstatement Fee:
$50.00 for a Non-Alcohol-Related Reinstatement Fee (plus $9.00 (plus GST) Alberta Registry Agent Service Fee)
$200.00 for an Alcohol-Related Reinstatement Fee (plus $9.00 (plus GST) Alberta Registry Agent Service Fee)
If your driverís licence has expired or is due to expire, you may renew your driverís licence at the same time as applying for a replacement or reissued driverís licence. Licence renewal fees vary based on the number of years the licence is being extended.
These fees do not apply to drivers who are suspended for a period of 24 hours or 3 days, provided they pick up their driverís licence from the Police Agency that issued their Suspension within one week of the Suspension end date. If the driverís licence is not picked up within 7 days, the Police Agency will destroy the driverís licence and you will be required to apply for a driverís licence replacement at any Alberta Registry Agent.
- Can I appeal a licence suspension?
Alberta administrative licence suspensions may be appealed through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board within 30 days of issuance. Criminal Code convictions are appealed through the courts.
If a roadside suspension is issued for more than 3 days, it may be appealed through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board.
- 18. What will happen if I am driving while impaired and driving while disqualified and/or suspended?
In addition to receiving any relevant sanctions or charges for impaired driving, drivers will be charged with an offence of driving while disqualified and/or suspended. Depending on the circumstances, the penalty may be issued under the Criminal Code of Canada and/or the Alberta Traffic Safety Act. If you are caught driving while disqualified and/or suspended, you will:
- receive an additional 6-month suspension, which will run consecutively to any other suspension on your driving record.
- have the vehicle you were driving seized and impounded for a period of 30 days or;
- have the vehicle you were driving seized and impounded for a period of 60 days if it is a second offence and the vehicle seizure involves the same suspended/disqualified driver and same registered owner within a three-year window.
- If it's a first offence you may acquire a fine of $2000 and if in default of payment may face up to 6 months imprisonment from the day of finding guilt and;
- Each subsequent offence committed within one year will face imprisonment for up to 6 months from the day of finding guilt.
- If convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada the offence may receive up to 5 years imprisonment.
- If my vehicle is seized, will I need to pay for the towing and impound charges and what is the cost?
Yes, you will need to pay the towing and impound charges. Costs vary for the length of the tow, but may start at $116.00 and increase $2.00 per km/h (approximate) and also depend on additional equipment needed in the tow. Storage fees vary, but are a minimum of $30 per day. These costs are an example for Edmonton only. In other locations, police have contracts with towing companies and these costs may be greater.
- Can I appeal a vehicle seizure?
The first three-day vehicle seizure cannot be appealed. The second, third and subsequent seizures can be appealed to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board.
- Can my vehicle be returned sooner if I need a vehicle for my job?
No, the vehicle can only be returned upon appeal of the seizure.
- If I lend my vehicle to a friend or family member and the vehicle is seized, can I get my vehicle back immediately since I own the vehicle and was not the driver? Will I be responsible for any costs or will my friend or family member be required to pay?
If you lend your vehicle to a friend or family member, you will be required to appeal the seizure to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board. As the registered owner, you are responsible for all costs involved in the seizure.
- If the seized vehicle belongs to an employer or to a rental agency, can it be returned sooner?
The employer could appeal the seizure to the Board. The rental agency will also be required to appeal the seizure to the Board.
- If I am driving a bicycle, an off-highway vehicle or even farm equipment while impaired can it be seized?
If you are operating a pedal vehicle, it will not be seized; however, if you are operating an off-highway vehicle or farm equipment off private property, it will be seized.
††††For information on the Ignition Interlock Program, Please visit http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/iip.htm.
- What does the Planning Ahead course include and what is the cost?
Planning Ahead is a one-day program that covers impaired driving laws, the effect of alcohol on the body, and how to separate drinking and driving. There is a cost associated with this course. For more information on the Planning Ahead course please visit: http://www.ama.ab.ca/community-and-ama/alberta-impaired-drivers-program.
Other courses may be required in the future.
- What does the IMPACT course include and what is the cost?
IMPACT is a weekend residential program that teaches offenders to think about how alcohol and other drugs are affecting their lives. There is a cost associated with this course. For more information on the IMPACT course please visit: http://www.ama.ab.ca/community-and-ama/alberta-impaired-drivers-program.
Other courses may be required in the future.
- What does the Crossroads course include and what is the cost?
Crossroads is a three and a half hour course designed to prevent impaired driving. Participants will learn to identify how alcohol impairs skills at lower blood alcohol levels as well as developing action plans to avoid drinking and driving. There is a cost associated with this course. For more information on the Crossroads course please visit: http://www.ama.ab.ca/community-and-ama/alberta-impaired-drivers-program.
- Why does Alberta use a 10 year look back period?
Along with the new administrative penalties, a new system is in place to identify repeat offenders at the .05 to .08 level.
Alberta will now keep a 10-year record of these offences, the same period we use for tracking criminal impaired driving convictions and among the longest in Canada.
- What is the difference between an approved screening device and an approved instrument?
An approved screening device is a mobile, roadside screening device # a portable piece of equipment used at the roadside by an officer to test for alcohol. It provides the results from a breath sample provided at the scene.
An approved instrument is an intoxilyzer, commonly referred to as a breathalyzer. This instrument is located at the police station or inside a Checkstop vehicle. Tests with these devices take more time. This instrument collects a reading from those who have been arrested for criminal impaired driving and is used to confirm that a blood alcohol level is over .08.
- How can you be sure the devices are accurate?
Breath testing instruments in Canada undergo a rigorous evaluation. All devices in use in Alberta must be approved for use by the Alcohol Testing Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science and comply with Alberta specific training and quality assurance by the Alberta Breath Testing Committee. They also undergo scheduled inspections.
- Can these devices provide inaccurate or false positive readings?
These devices are carefully calibrated and regularly maintained. They are tested prior to use to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Can I refuse to provide a breath sample?
If you refuse to provide a breath sample, you will be charged under the Criminal Code. Refusing to provide a sample is a criminal offence.
- Can I challenge the results of my breath test?
At the roadside, you can challenge the results of your breath test and request a second test from a second device.
- Can I give a blood sample instead?
- Should people buy breathalyzers that are available from retail outlets?
No, these over-the-counter devices are not of the same level of quality as instruments used by the police, and inaccurate readings could potentially place drivers at risk.
- Can I appeal an Alberta administrative licence suspension (over .08)?
You can appeal your suspension through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board, an independent tribunal that hears appeals on a broad range of traffic issues. At this level, you are also facing criminal charges that you can challenge through a criminal trial.
- Can I appeal a roadside suspension?
There are a couple of ways you can challenge your administrative penalties.
At the roadside, you can challenge the results of your breath test and request a second test from a second device.
If your licence is suspended longer than a three-day first offence, you can make a formal appeal through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board, an independent tribunal that hears appeals on a broad range of traffic issues.
- Can I appeal a zero alcohol suspension?
There are a couple of ways you can challenge your administrative penalties.
At the roadside, you can challenge the results of your breath test and request a second test from a second device. You can also make a formal appeal through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board, an independent tribunal that hears appeals on a broad range of traffic issues.
- Doesn't this law make the police "judge, jury and executioner"?
Police officers already issue immediate 24 hour license suspensions when they suspect a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.
Immediate roadside suspensions of 3 days or more will not be issued based on the judgment of a police officer. These suspensions are based on readings from scientifically approved devices that are rigorously maintained, checked and carefully calibrated. A driver can request a second test on a second device.
In addition, any suspension of more than 3 days can be appealed to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board.
- How has the new impaired driving legislation affected court lead times?
Drivers who feel their licenses have been taken in error do not need to wait for the criminal trial. With respect to license suspension all drivers have the right to appeal to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board. Lead times change depending on the schedules of defence counsel, prosecutors, judges, the availability of witnesses and the inherent complexity of the trial. Many of these factors cannot easily be shortened and none of them have been negatively impacted by the new legislation.
- Who is the Registrar and what is that individual's role?
The Registrar of Motor Vehicle Services is responsible for traffic safety services and the Traffic Safety Act and its regulations, and is an employee of the Ministry of Transportation.
- What is the role of the Alberta Transportation Safety Board?
The Board hears appeals of second and subsequent roadside suspensions and seizures, Alberta zero alcohol tolerance suspensions and seizures, and Alberta administrative licence suspensions when a criminal charge has been laid.
- Who are the members of the Board?
Members of the Board are persons living in the community, they serve on the Board for an initial period of three years and may be re-appointed for an additional three years. All Board members are appointed by Order-in- Council.
- What are the qualifications of these Board members?
As Board members live in the community where the hearings are held, they have varying backgrounds from teachers to former lawyers, former county managers, ex-police members, social workers and business persons.
- Do any other provinces have these measures?
Nine jurisdictions already have laws imposing tougher sanctions on drivers with blood alcohol concentrations at .05 or greater. In Saskatchewan, sanctions begin at .04.
- How many people are convicted of impaired driving each year in Alberta?
Over the past five years, there have been 43,111 criminal convictions for impaired driving in Alberta.
- How many people were killed or injured by impaired drivers last year in Alberta?
In 2012, 78 people were killed and 1,268 people were injured in casualty collisions involving alcohol. Over the last five years, 471 people were killed and 7,397 people were injured in alcohol-related collisions on Alberta roadways.
- Is the issue of impaired driving in Alberta becoming worse?
Impaired driving is the single largest cause of criminal death in Canada and imposes significant costs on the provincial government and serious consequences on the victims of impaired drivers. While the number of people killed in alcohol-related collisions in 2012 has decreased 38.5 per cent over 2007, too many people continue to die in alcohol-related collisions and this is unacceptable.
- How many collisions are caused by drivers who are two or three times over the legal blood alcohol concentration limit? Is it true that most impaired driving collisions are caused by these drivers?
While increased alcohol impairment has increasing consequences on your ability to operate a motor vehicle, one study found that 13 per cent of drivers in alcohol-related fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration of .01 to .07. Another study found that between 15 to 20 per cent of alcohol-positive fatally injured drivers had blood alcohol concentrations between .01 and .08. As these studies show, even a moderate amount of alcohol can lead to collisions.
- How do we know that introducing tougher sanctions will help to reduce impaired driving?
Numerous studies indicate that swift and certain consequences for impaired driving reduce the number of collisions. Specifically, two types of administrative sanctions, immediate suspensions and vehicle seizures, have been shown to reduce impaired driving and associated collisions.
- Have these measures been effective in other jurisdictions?
Internationally, many jurisdictions have shown positive results associated with similar measures to those introduced in Alberta. British Columbia introduced similar legislation in 2010 and has since had success in lowering the number of fatalities in alcohol-related collisions. Information on their success can be found at:
- How will the effect of these sanctions be monitored and evaluated?
Impaired driving sanctions will be monitored and reviewed the same way that government monitors other traffic safety issues, for example by gathering statistics and watching trends on:
- the number of alcohol-involved collisions and casualties
- the number of alcohol-related administrative suspensions
- the number of Criminal Code convictions
This is in addition to continued participation in national strategies aimed at reducing impaired driving and continuing to monitor the results of research in other jurisdictions, especially in other Canadian jurisdictions with similar laws.
- Will the penalties affect behaviour only in the short term? Can these changes create lasting behavioural change?
Studies show that increasing penalties for drivers below .08 is associated with long-tem reductions in impaired driving and alcohol-related fatalities.