Alberta safety groups want better drunk-driving law

After meeting with B.C. Premier Christy Clark last Friday, Redford announced she is considering invoking tougher penalties when it comes to drunk driving in Alberta.

Premier Redford’s government looks to B.C. law for inspiration

Premier Alison Redford, right, told reporters Alberta could be getting tougher drunk-driving legislation at a press conference with B.C. Premier Christy Clark in Calgary last Friday. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

Safety advocates are supporting Premier Alison Redford’s idea to strengthen Alberta’s drunk-driving law.

After meeting with B.C. Premier Christy Clark last Friday, Redford said she is considering invoking tougher penalties.

The announcement came one day before a crash in Grande Prairie, Alta., claimed the lives of four teens and sent another to hospital in critical condition.

A 21-year-old man is facing numerous charges in relation to the collision, including impaired driving causing death.

"First off, my heart goes out to the families of the people in Grande Prairie," said Alberta's solicitor general Jonathan Denis.

"It’s not appropriate to be commenting on a specific case, but I think definitely the premier has spoken that we want to look at some more administrative duties for drinking and driving, and that's something that I definitely think we should be looking forward to."

Denis can't say when Alberta will bring in new laws.

"We want to ensure that safety is the No. 1 priority on all of our streets," he said. "And drinking and driving is something that has affected so many people."

He says Alberta may not copy B.C.'s laws exactly — and first needs to do more research.

In B.C., police can immediately suspend a licence for three days and impound the vehicle on a first offence if the driver blows over .05 per cent.

That's lower than the criminal code bar of .08 per cent, which is what Alberta uses.

The B.C. provincial government says strict penalties have cut drinking and driving deaths by half.

Safety groups want change

Don Szarko of the Alberta Motor Association says the B.C. law provides early detection, but there are other issues related to drunk driving.

He says most of the drunk-driving charges laid in Alberta are drivers who blow nearly twice the legal limit.

Denise Dubyk, president of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, is glad tougher penalties are being discussed for drunk driving. (Claude Rivest Mazzanna/CBC)

"It's about proper enforcement, but proper streaming of people into the right program," said Szarko.

"Then after the fact, how are we helping these people because it becomes more than an impaired driving charge."

Denise Dubyk, president of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), welcomes the whole idea.

"To hear a premier say those two words — impaired driving, strengthening legislation — is something we have not heard in a long, long time," she said.

She says along with tougher penalties, MADD would like to see the graduated driving license program extended to age 22.

Dubyk says she's confident change is coming.