Past drunk drivers plead for chance to get licence back
Proposed change to Motor Vehicle Act considered
Nova Scotians who have lost their driver's licence for life may be able to apply next year to have their licences reinstated under a proposed change to the Motor Vehicle Act.
Scott Burchill, a Dartmouth resident who permanently lost his driver's licence 15 years ago after getting caught multiple times while driving drunk, argued for the change in emotional testimony on Monday before the law amendments committee.
"What I did, I did. And it was my fault," Burchill told the committee, which heard from people interested in the proposed legislation.
His voice broke as he revealed what changed his life: "On April 14, 2010, my daughter was born and in the last four years I've learned more from my daughter than the 10 years before her."
Burchill told the committee he has six convictions: three for drunk driving and three for driving with a suspended licence. He has spent three to four months in jail.
He said he's a proponent of tougher sentences for drunk drivers but wants people who have changed their lives to be given a second chance.
"I'm just lucky that I never killed anybody or got in an accident. There's nobody to blame but me," Burchill said.
"I honestly believe if somebody changes their lifestyle that they deserve a chance."
'I would never jeopardize anything'
Ryan Kirker, who is also barred from driving for life, told the committee his daughter, too, has changed his life.
"I don't seem I'm a very good father to her because I can't take her to places she needs to go," he said.
Kirker was handed the lifetime driving ban 10 years ago. He said he quit drinking three years ago.
"If I were to get the chance to get my driver's licence back, I would never jeopardize anything to ever lose it again," he said.
Kirker, who lives in a rural area, said his employment will soon be dependent on having a licence.
"I'm travelling 175 kilometres a day with a friend who is quitting the job we're working at in the spring. So it's forcing me to quit, too," he said Monday.
If he gets his license back, Kirker said he wants to start a courier business and hopes to create jobs.
Paul Arsenault, the registrar of motor vehicles, said the proposed change to the Motor Vehicle Act would create a faint-hope clause for people like Burchill and Kirker to reapply for their licences under certain circumstances. A request will not automatically reinstate a licence.
Regulations to be developed
"The intent of the bill is to allow individuals to undergo a process to determine whether or not they can get their licence back," Arsenault said.
A series of regulations will be developed over the coming months to outline the process for reinstating licences.
No one is opposing the changes to the legislation, but those who support it say any reinstatement for drunk drivers must include the installation of an interlock device in the driver's car. It requires the driver to blow into the machine and any alcohol reading will prevent the car from starting.
Margaret Miller, a former Atlantic president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and now the Liberal MLA for Hants East, supports the legislation.
"With the interlock there's absolutely no risk to the public," she said.
Miller added the legislation will give people who made "stupid" mistakes an opportunity to get their licences back.
The legislation will apply to anyone who has been handed a lifetime driving ban, including those caught speeding. The regulations are not expected to require those people to have an interlock device.
The bill is expected to be passed before this session of the legislature adjourns and become law on April 1, 2015.