New Brunswick

Stephen Horsman proposes stiffer penalties for drunk drivers

Stephen Horsman, the minister of public safety, announced on Thursday the province plans to implement mandatory ignition interlock for impaired drivers and tougher sanctions on those who drive while impaired.

New legislation aims to improve New Brunswick's last-place ranking by MADD on dealing with impaired drivers

Families and Children Minister Stephen Horsman has 45 days to respond to recommendations from the child death review committee. (Joe MacDonald)

The province plans to implement mandatory ignition interlock for impaired drivers and tougher sanctions on those who drive while impaired, the minister of public safety announced on Thursday.

Stephen Horsman introduced a bill on Thursday that will take a tougher stand on those who drink and drive.

Ignition interlock technology is similar to a breathalyzer and prevents a driver from starting the car without a clean breath sample and, Horsman says, is the biggest change to the legislation, by far.

It's a good Christmas present.- Kali O'Dell , Fredericton chapter, MADD

Along with a promised increase in penalties, Horsman says there will be changes to how vehicles are impounded and for how long, and there will be a crackdown on drivers who have alcohol levels between point-zero-five and point-zero-eight.

"So for people who get caught today and blow a warning, they're given seven-day suspension," said Horsman. 

"So we're going to start capturing that. So if they do it again, it's going to be a stiffer penalty. If they do it again, a stiffer penalty."

'We all cried'

Kali O'Dell, director of awareness and education for the Fredericton chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was at the legislature on Thursday for Horsman's announcement.

O'Dell, 21, lost both of her parents to an impaired driver in a devastating accident in Salisbury in 2006. Her younger brother was seriously injured in that accident, and both siblings have spoken out against drinking and driving.

She says MADD has been advocating for mandatory interlock in this province for years.

"The mandate has kind of been danced around for a long time, but it's nice to see a minister who's willing to push for it," said O'Dell.

"I don't want anyone else to live through what we had to live through."

She says when word came the government was moving forward with the legislation, "We all cried … my entire chapter has been very, very thankful that we've gotten to be involved in the process ... it's a good Christmas present.

Horsman also says the new legislation will give police officers the power to suspend drivers for 24 hours, even if there is no sign of alcohol, but they were driving erratically or in a distracted manner. He says officers will have to justify that decision in their regular reports.

"I think that's prudent," he said.


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