B.C. drinking and driving deaths down significantly

There has been a dramatic drop in the number of deaths caused by drinking and driving in B.C. says the provincial government.

200 lives have been saved since tougher drinking and driving laws were introduced, province says

Drinking and driving deaths in B.C. are down from an average of 112 per year in 2010 to 54 in 2013. (CBC)

There has been a dramatic drop in the number of deaths caused by drinking and driving in B.C. since the introduction of stiffer penalties says the provincial government.

Government officials say that since the laws were put in place in late 2010, 190 lives have been saved. Recent statistics show on average there are 54 drinking and driving related deaths a year — down from 112 a year before the tougher rules were put in place.

The new rules include increased penalties for those who blow over the legal limit as well as those who blow in the warning range during a breathalyzer test.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said the numbers show the government's new approach is working. 

"It was our goal when this program came in to reduce deaths by impaired drivers by 35 per cent. It has in fact reduced deaths by 52 per cent," she said.

2013 numbers question effectiveness

Last year's numbers raise questions as to whether or not the new laws are still working.

The number of roadside warnings issued last year increased 15 per cent compared to the number issued in 2012.

The Ministry of Justice says the 2013 numbers are higher than the year before because parts of the drinking and driving legislation were suspended for part of the year in 2012.

Minister Anton said there is always more to learn from such programs, but she is pleased with the results so far.

"The program is saving lives and it is saving more than ever so I think it is going the right direction," said Anton.

The new drinking and driving policies are still under question, facing court challenges that argue these new laws place too much arbitrary power in the hands of police officers.

With files from the CBC's Stephen Smart