Mowing half-cut: Impaired driving laws not limited to just cars

RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie says it’s rare for police to charge the driver of a lawn tractor with drinking and driving, but technically it’s no different than driving a car while impaired.

It's illegal to ride a lawn tractor, boat — or even a horse — while impaired, police say

Because the Criminal Code doesn't differentiate between private and public property when dealing with impaired driving, you could be charged if you're driving a lawn tractor in your backyard, says RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie. (Shutterstock/vaivirga)

It's a sunny summer day, you're on the back deck having a few drinks and decide it's time to mow the lawn. You start up the lawn tractor, hop on and away you go.

According to the letter of law, you could be charged with impaired driving.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie says it's rare for police to charge a driver of a lawn tractor with drinking and driving, but technically it's no different than driving a car while impaired.

In fact, the Criminal Code of Canada defines a motor vehicle as a vehicle that is "drawn, propelled or driven by any means other than muscular power."

Baillie said that could include golf carts, electric or gas powered bicycles, boats, planes, snowmobiles and, yes, ride-on lawn mowers.

"If you are operating any of these conveyances and are impaired you can be charged with impaired driving," he said.

A man found that out earlier this month when he was arrested while driving a lawn tractor on a dirt road in Alberton. Baillie said the man is facing charges of failing to provide a breath sample.

CBC asked Baillie about the laws around impaired driving.

Can you be charged for impaired driving even if you are on your own property?

Yes, according to Baillie. He said the Criminal Code sections that deal with impaired driving don't differentiate between private or public property.

"Generally we're not going into people's yards and checking to see their level of sobriety, but if we were to receive a complaint, particularly if there's someone at risk, we'd definitely follow that up."

A golf cart is considered a motorized vehicle under the Criminal Code, and subject to the same drinking and driving laws as cars, Baillie says. (Shutterstock/PAPA WOR)

Baillie said that could also apply to driving a golf cart at a golf course.

"Unlike some of the sections of the Highway Traffic Act, you don't have to be on a highway to be charged with impaired driving," he said.

"If someone drinks to the point they're impaired and they get in some sort of collision or hit a person or caused some damage, they're going to be civilly liable."

What about drinking on a boat?

The law states you cannot be "in care and control" of a vessel — including sailboats and canoes — while your ability to drive is impaired.

"If you're docked at the harbour, you're tied up, your motor is not running, you have no intention to leave the dock, that's generally not an issue," Baillie said.

Baillie says police will be making patrols on P.E.I. waterways this summer checking for impaired boaters. (Shane Ross/CBC)

"But say you are out at anchor fishing or something and your boat is running and you're intending to move in and take your boat back into port, then in that case you'd be deemed to have care and control."

Baillie said police will be making patrols in P.E.I. waterways this summer looking for impaired boaters. They also rely on tips from the public.

Is it legal to ride a horse while intoxicated?


At least on a highway. Under Section 295 of the P.E.I. Highway Traffic Act, a person can be fined $200 to $1,000 if operating a horse — or a horse and buggy — while intoxicated on a highway.

Under P.E.I.'s Highway Traffic Act, it's illegal to ride a horse or operate a horse and buggy while intoxicated. (Shutterstock/Fotos593)

That includes "other animals used as a means of conveyance," as well.

What about non-motorized vehicles like bicycles and skateboards?

Because they are propelled by muscular power and don't have any type of motor, you wouldn't be charged under the Criminal Code with driving a motor vehicle while impaired, Baillie said.

But you could still be charged with being intoxicated in public. And an accident could be dire.

What if I'm not over the legal limit?

You could still be charged.

The legal limit is 80 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, so if the breathalyzer readings are 80 or under, the driver won't be charged with "driving over 80," Baillie said, but could still be charged with impaired driving.

Baillie says a driver could be charged with impaired driving even if they are under the legal limit of 80 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. (CBC)

"If the person's driving was clearly, you know, crossing the centre line, hitting the shoulder and the person's getting out staggering, stumbling, falling down and they have two readings of 80, in that case I would expect that they obviously wouldn't be charged with driving over 80 but they'd still be charged with impaired driving."

Drivers can also be charged if they are impaired by drugs, including cannabis and prescription medication, Baillie said.

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