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MADD Yukon asks candidates to support tougher drunk driving laws

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter in Whitehorse is lobbying election candidates to strengthen impaired driving laws, after a new report criticized the Yukon government's response to the problem.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says Yukon needs stronger measures to lower deaths and injuries

MADD says Yukon RCMP officers need more powers to deter drunk drivers after a new report criticized the Yukon government's soft approach. (Dave Croft/CBC)

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter in Whitehorse is lobbying election candidates to strengthen impaired driving laws in the territory, after a new report criticized the Yukon government's response to the problem. 

The report, which was prepared for MADD by Robert Solomon, a professor in the Faculty of Law at Western University in London, Ont., presents a bleak picture of the high rates of drunk driving in the territory.

Solomon notes that Yukon has more heavy drinkers per capita than most Canadian jurisdictions, as well as more impaired drivers per capita in recent years.

His report also found the number of road crash deaths in Yukon were 11 people per 100,000 in 2013 — twice the national rate.

According to Solomon, 50 per cent of those road crash deaths involved a drinking driver — nationally, the rate is just under 30 per cent.

The report concludes that despite those numbers — and unlike most provinces — Yukon has failed to enact effective countermeasures over the past 10 years.

"This is particularly troubling, given Yukon's high rates of per capita alcohol consumption, heavy drinking, impaired driving, and total and impairment-related crash deaths and injuries."

Amanda Price, centre, says the territory needs tougher laws 'to get drivers who are impaired off the roadway.' (CBC)

Government preferred personal responsibility

In 2014, then Justice Minister Mike Nixon told CBC News the Yukon Party government preferred encouraging personal responsibility over the creation of new laws.

That explanation doesn't sit well with MADD Canada's Yukon president, Amanda Price.

She said other jurisdictions have had success in reducing drunk driving, and the related deaths and injuries, through new laws.

"We can see the legislative change in other jurisdictions is working and having a very significant effect, like 54 per cent reduction in deaths in British Columbia.

"I think you can always continue to do education and awareness, but I think at a point you have to provide law enforcement the tools that they need to get drivers who are impaired off the roadway in a manner that doesn't take up a lot of their time, and lets them be effective at their job," Price added.

Whitehorse resident Mike Dixon said he's been following the issue since learning Yukon is consistently at or near the top of impaired driving rates.

He said it's something Yukoners should see as shameful and a disgrace.

"Mr. Premier, and anyone else, the time for education is over, the time is to improve the legislation, to make it much harder and get these people finally off the road," Dixon said.

Questions for candidates

Price sent three questions to each of the candidates running in the territorial election in hopes of drawing attention to the issue. They include: 

  • Enhanced roadside licence suspensions for drivers with Blood Alcohol Concentration in the warn range (.05 per cent to .08 per cent BAC) are one of the most effective ways of reducing impaired driving. Yet the Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada which has failed to update its programs. If elected, will you support increasing the current 24-hour licence suspension period to seven days?
  • The addition of vehicle impoundments, matching the licence suspension period for drivers who violate the .05 per cent BAC law, have reduced impairment-related crash deaths significantly in other provinces. If elected, will you support the introduction of vehicle impoundments for drivers with BACs between .05 per cent and .08 per cent? 
  • Zero BAC requirements for young drivers are an important way to protect young people from impaired driving. The Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada which does not have a zero per cent BAC requirement to protect young drivers. If elected, will you support a zero per cent BAC requirement for all drivers aged 21 and under?

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