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MADD CEO blasts federal proposals on impaired driving law

Andrew Murie of MADD Canada says the government failed Canadians by focusing on penalties and ignoring deterrence in a new proposed law on impaired driving. 'It was a very disappointing day for our organization.'

Jail time for those convicted of impaired driving causing death won't work, MADD CEO says

MADD Canada says police officers should be able to test all drivers at road check stops for alcohol and drug impairment. (CBC)

The federal government's proposed changes to impaired driving laws have failed Canadians, says Andrew Murie, the chief executive officer of the Canadian arm of MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced a bill Tuesday proposing tougher penalties for drunk driving, including a mandatory minimum sentence of six years in prison for anyone convicted of impaired driving causing death.  

'They think they're doing a favour to victims of impaired driving,' says Andrew Murie. 'They're just disappointing them.' (MADD Canada)
Murie says penalties that only happen after somebody is dead don't stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.

"It will have zero effect," Murie says. "It's just pleasing, you know, some voices out there that think getting tough and getting longer penalties, getting minimum penalties will make a fundamental difference." 

Murie says his organization would rather see an emphasis on deterrence — something the bill says little on — as well as the use of drugs and driving. 

"It was a very disappointing day for our organization," he says.

Prevention, enforcement needed

Murie, in Whitehorse for a national road safety conference, says changes to the impaired driving laws should focus on prevention of injuries and deaths — and that requires greater enforcement by police. 

MADD Canada has been asking for random testing, where police set up road check stops and give breathalyzer tests to every driver passing through. 

"If they know they're out there and they know the police can randomly stop them and test them, that changes behaviour," he says.

Murie was also hoping for a law to require that every driver involved in a road crash be tested for impairment.

"These people that are getting off now, won't be getting off anymore because it will make it a lot easier for police to get the evidence."

Saliva testing proposed

Murie says young people are more aware of the dangers of drunk driving than previous generations, but he says many are switching to other drugs, like marijuana. He says police should be able to give roadside saliva tests.

MADD says the federal government did not deliver on promises on far reaching reform to impaired driving laws. (CBC)
"The test takes less than 10 seconds to do, and within a couple of minutes they can determine if they're on one of seven groups of drugs," he says, listing cocaine, opiates, marijuana and amphetamines. "All the major things that would impact somebody's driving." 

Murie says these measures are effective in other countries, like Australia and Sweden, where they enjoy broad support. In Sweden, he says, 90 percent of people who drive drunk are caught.

Murie also says MADD was part of roundtable discussions on this legislation with the justice minister last summer, and promises made by the government have not been kept.

"They left out all the good stuff, which was in their own federal committees, and focused just on penalties which is just very narrow-minded.

"They think they're doing a favour to victims of impaired driving. They're just disappointing them."

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