The P.E.I. government introduced big changes to drunk driving laws in the province on Thursday, CBC News has learned.

"It's something we take very seriously and I believe it's legislation that will have us in the forefront or leaders in the country on this issue," said Transportation Minister Robert Vessey before he made the official announcement.

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Transportation Minister Robert Veseey wanted to hold on to the details of the changes to the drunk driving legislation. (CBC)

There are three areas where the province will start treating drunk driving more harshly.

All first time offenders must have ignition interlocks in their vehicles. The devices won't allow the vehicle to start if alcohol is detected on the driver's breath.

Offenders caught with children under 16-years-old in the vehicle will have to use the ignition–breathalyzer program for two years.

Vessey said the new rules will double the number of convicted drivers using the devices.

"The department has heard that the program is the only thing keeping them from driving while impaired," he said.

Tougher rules regarding impounding vehicles will also be introduced.

New rules applauded

Andrew Murie, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is particularly happy to see ignition interlock rules for first-time offenders.

"This is one of the big things that P.E.I. was lacking," said Murie.

"It was one of the things that really stood out. As much as being a leader in the top echelon, they were missing this piece. And that's why as an organization we pushed so hard for this to become a reality."

Recent statistics show P.E.I. had more drunk driving incidents per capita last year than any other province in Atlantic Canada.

Jennifer Campbell has a personal stake in the new laws. Her former boyfriend and her cousin died in a crash that involved alcohol 11 years ago.

"If the laws were tougher, maybe it would stop, or not be as much," she said.

Dave Griffin, a retired police officer who is also a member of M.A.D.D., said he also supports the changes.

"We know one thing for sure: what we're doing is not working."

For mobile device users: Will changes to drunk driving legislation stop Islanders from driving while impaired? 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly said one penalty would include an automatic two-year licence suspension.
    Nov 22, 2012 2:13 PM AT