Alberta bolstering drug-impaired driving laws

Above: Minister Mason announces Bill 29, An Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol-Impaired Driving, with representatives from Alberta Motor Transport Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. – GOA Photo

by Morinville News Staff

The Government of Alberta is proposing new legislation to deter impaired driving and improve safety on the province’s roads.

If passed, Bill 29, An Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol-Impaired Driving, would create new provincial sanctions for cannabis-impaired and cannabis/alcohol-impaired driving offences.

Federal legislation that will legalize the use and possession of non-medical cannabis, also makes changes to federal impaired-driving laws in the Criminal Code. Those changes include three new impaired driving charges specific to cannabis, cannabis/alcohol combination and other drugs.

In sync with federal moves, the province is proposing updates to the Traffic Safety Act to reflect federal changes and to ensure drug-impaired driving sanctions would be aligned with those already in place for alcohol-impaired drivers.

“Impaired driving due to alcohol, cannabis or any other impairing drug or combination of drugs, is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada,” said Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation, in a release Tuesday. “These tragedies are entirely avoidable. Alberta’s impaired driving laws aim to reduce the number of impaired drivers on our roads, encourage safe driving behaviour and strongly discourage impaired driving.”

New measures under Bill 29 would include zero tolerance for cannabis, cannabis/alcohol combination and illegal drugs for graduated drivers in addition to the current zero tolerance for alcohol as well as expanded provincial administrative sanctions for drivers with a blood drug concentration or blood drug/alcohol concentration over the new criminal limits proposed by the federal government. These sanctions would be the same as those imposed on drivers suspected of being criminally impaired by alcohol.

A 90-day, fixed-term licence suspension for drivers found over federal criminal limits. Following the 90-day suspension, drivers would have the option to participate in a one-year ignition interlock program to have their licence reinstated. If they decide not to participate in the program, their licence would remain suspended for that year.

If Bill 29 passes, the amendment related to 90-day licence suspension and one year of interlock would commence Feb. 1, 2018. The cannabis-related amendments would be proclaimed and become law when the federal government has its legislation in place.

MADD Canada National Board of Directors Chair Brenda Johnson said her organization welcomes Alberta’s proposed legislation addressing impaired driving. “The provision to prevent drugged driving among new and young drivers is especially important, and we thank the province for its leadership on this issue,” Stewart said.

Alberta is also responding to the recent Alberta Court of Appeal decision overturning section 88.1 of the Traffic Safety Act. Drivers who meet the criminal threshold for impaired driving would receive a 90-day licence suspension followed by one year in an ignition interlock program. The existing law imposed an indefinite licence suspension that stayed in place until the disposition of the court case.

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