Saskatchewan is bringing in a zero drug and alcohol tolerance policy for drivers under 19 and for all drivers in the graduated licensing program.

The move is one of 14 traffic safety measures the province is implementing based on recommendations by a legislative committee which reported in August.

Young or new drivers with alcohol in their systems will have their cars seized at the roadside. The same will happen with any drivers having a blood alcohol content between .08 and .15 or with those who refuse a test.

Also new for traffic safety:

Other changes announced Thursday include:

  • Mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted impaired drivers.
  • A two-year photo radar pilot project at high-risk locations and in school zones in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon.
  • Booster seats mandatory for children under the age of seven, who weigh less than 80 pounds and who are shorter than four-foot-nine.

Not included, but suggested in report:

  • One of the suggestions not acted on was to include a reference to "holding" a cell-phone or electronic device in the legislation that bans the use of hand-held devices while at the wheel. Harpauer says more work needs to be done on that recommendation. "We need to define holding before we can implement it," she said.

"We are doing the impoundment for your new drivers because there's more new drivers involved in accidents," Donna Harpauer, minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, said Thursday.

New Democrat Danielle Chartier, an opposition MLA who was on the legislative committee, said she wanted to see the government go further and seize the vehicles of drivers whose blood alcohol level registered .05 or higher.

"We can look to two other jurisdictions, Alberta and B.C., who have implemented short-term impoundments for those in the warning range or over .05. They're high-risk drivers who have not yet got a criminal conviction," said Chartier. "In B.C., they've reduced their impaired driving death rates by more than 50 per cent in two years with this policy."

MADD Canada hoped for more

MADD Canada also believes the changes to Saskatchewan's impaired driving laws don't go far enough, especially when it comes to drivers in .the 04 to .08 blood alcohol range.

The organization says zero tolerance should be extended to all drivers 21 and under.

"These changes will have some benefit, but there is much more the province could be doing to address the problem of impaired driving," said Louise Twerdy, MADD's western region services manager.

"If we want to significantly reduce impaired driving crashes, deaths and injuries in Saskatchewan, we need to go further than the changes announced today," she added.

MADD estimates that Saskatchewan has the highest per capita rate of alcohol-related road crash deaths among the provinces. It says an estimated 9.76 of every 100,000 people die because of impaired driving in Saskatchewan -- higher than the national average of 3.17
people in every 100,000.