B.C. drunk-driving deaths decline with tougher laws
Tougher penalties for driving impaired came into effect in September 2010
Posted: Dec 28, 2012 5:22 PM PT
Last Updated: Dec 28, 2012 5:45 PM PT
Police in Vancouver say tougher impaired driving penalties introduced in B.C. just over two years ago are working, and have reduced the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers.
The rules, introduced in September 2010, meant that police could impose an automatic 90-day driving ban and a $500 fine for anyone who refuses a breathalyzer test or blows over the 0.08 blood alcohol level limit.
Police also had the power to impound vehicles for 30 days, and impose driving prohibitions if a driver's blood alcohol level is found to be over 0.05.A police officer takes a breathalyzer sample from a driver. Police in B.C. say that tougher penalties for drinking and driving are reducing the number of impaired drivers they catch, and the number of deaths on the road. (CBC)
In 2012, a court challenge forced the B.C. government to change the rules around immediate roadside suspensions, giving drivers an opportunity to appeal roadside breathalyzer results.
But proponents agree that the system still works. Vancouver police Const. Brian Montague said it appears, anecdotally, that fewer people are driving drunk in the city.
"We have the same number of officers that are out and about, we're stopping the same amount of people, and yeah, the number of impaired drivers we are seeing appears to be in decline," he said.
Restaurants support changes
Initially, bar and restaurant owners were frustrated with the rules, and felt that some diners were wary of ordering a drink with dinner. Two months after the rules went into effect, the B.C. Restaurant Association estimated that some businesses saw sales drop between 15 and 30 per cent.
Less than a year later, the association changed its mind. Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant Association, says people have adapted.
"These tougher drinking driving regulations are good, and it just takes time," Tostenson says. "What we said at the time was give us some time to adjust, not surprise us overnight."
The province and the RCMP also say the measures are paying off. The RCMP estimate that at least 100 lives have been saved after people changed their behaviour as they adapted to the rules.
That estimate is based on five years of data collected by ICBC, which captures the number of traffic deaths where impairment by alcohol, drugs, or medication was deemed a factor.Source: ICBC
The year after the penalties were introduced, the number of driving fatalities relating to impairment dropped sharply — and dropped more sharply than the decline in numbers of fatalities linked to other causes, such as speeding, being distracted, taking risks, or driving too fast for road conditions. (See chart below.)
MADD wary of trend
Despite the encouraging trend, Mothers Against Drunk Driving isn't convinced the fix is permanent.
Bob Rorison, spokesman for MADD Metro Vancouver, said that as the novelty of the new regulations wears off, more people will start drinking and driving again.
"We've had a lot less deaths from drinking and driving and injuries, but let's see what happens in the future," Rorison said.
"People have forgotten the message. They think that it won't be them, they don't get stopped every day, we don't have check stops everywhere, so they still think that they can get away with it," he said.
The numbers of deaths linked to impaired driving (represented by height of the bubbles) fall from 2010 to 2011, and become proportional to the number of driving deaths due to other causes, when compared across the four regions. Sources: ICBC, B.C. Stats
Latest British Columbia News Headlines
- Bald and beautiful women host fashion fundraiser
- Two Vancouver women are hosting a fashion show to help people better understand alopecia areata, a condition that causes extreme hair loss. more »
- Former B.C. politician Garde Gardom dead at 88
- Former B.C. lieutenant-governor and attorney general Garde Basil Gardom has died at the age of 88. more »
- I-5 bridge reopens after collapse
- Travellers heading south from Vancouver to Seattle no longer have to make a lengthy detour to get around a damaged bridge on the I-5. more »
- Trumps announce exclusive tower deal in Vancouver
- U.S. business magnate Donald Trump and his family are in Vancouver to announce the details of an exclusive deal to build the city's first Trump Tower. more »
Top News Headlines
- Obesity now recognized as a disease
- The American Medical Association has voted to recognize obesity as a disease, while doctors in Canada say they also treat it as such. more »
- Neil Macdonald: Washington's obsession with leakers
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are just the most prominent targets in an all-out legal and propaganda campaign that America's security apparatus is mounting against leakers everywhere, Neil Macdonald writes. more »
- Caregiving dads stigmatized at work suggests UofT study
- Fathers who participate in child rearing and housework are likely to be labeled slackers and "failed men" at work, according to a study spearheaded by researchers at the University of Toronto and Long Island University. Are active dads the norm at your workplace? more »
- Dozens of children seized from Manitoba Mennonite community
- Child welfare authorities have removed all but one child from a small Mennonite community in rural Manitoba. more »
- B.C. teacher duct-taped students' mouths
- B.C. backcountry mobile maps cause concern
- Parents of son 'brutally beaten' playing hockey want charges
- Police probe death of woman, 27, in Kelowna home
- Hundreds attend 'Change Brazil' protest in Vancouver
- Failed condo pre-sale deal costs Vancouver buyer $750K
- Trumps announce exclusive tower deal in Vancouver
- The class photo that made a father cry
- Wearing a mask at a riot is now a crime