The 'stiffest' in Canada: A look at P.E.I.'s new impounding penalties for impaired driving
'P.E.I. has, I would say, probably the strongest and stiffest of impoundment rules in Canada'
Police on P.E.I. will soon have new powers to impound vehicles, powers designed to discourage impaired and dangerous driving.
"To deal with offenders, who are multiple ones, who it doesn't seem to matter whether there's fines or a little bit of jail time or driver licence suspensions," explained Graham Miner, director of highway safety for the P.E.I. government.
"It may be necessary to start taking the vehicles away to try and stop them from driving."
The changes to the Highway Traffic Act were passed in the fall sitting of the Legislature. They will take effect over the next couple of months once regulations have been amended, new forms created and computer systems updated.
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Under previous rules, a vehicle was only impounded on P.E.I. for more serious impaired charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Now vehicles will be taken away for any alcohol or drug infraction. And, for the first time, vehicles being driven by non-graduated and graduated drivers will also be impounded if they fail a roadside alcohol or drug test.
"P.E.I. has, I would say, probably the strongest and stiffest of impoundment rules in Canada for drinking and drug-related offences," said Miner.
The changes for young drivers, said Miner, are designed to get the message across early. There has been zero tolerance for any alcohol or drugs in new drivers, handing out 90 day suspensions. Now it includes impounding the impaired driver's vehicle for at least 30 days.
"Once those severe consequences happen right at the beginning, a person won't repeat that behaviour, just because of the consequences."
Those consequences also include the cost of having the vehicle towed and daily storage fees.
"If it's six months, it can be thousands and thousands of dollars," said Miner.
Six month impoundment for repeat offenders
A first time offender on P.E.I. charged under the Criminal Code for impaired driving used to be sent to jail overnight and lose their licence for one year.
Now, drivers charged with impaired driving, including being under the influence of drugs, exceeding .08 blood alcohol content or refusing to take a breathalyzer will have his or her vehicle impounded for 30 days for a first and second offence. If they're caught a third time or more, the vehicle is taken away for six months.
There is also a six month vehicle impoundment for a variety of other offences under the Criminal Code, including dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stop at an accident and multiple offences for driving while disqualified.
Speeders on P.E.I. can also have their vehicle impounded for 24 hours if they're caught driving 60 kilometres or more above the posted speed limit under the new rules.
Police support changes
The new impoundment rules have been applauded by MADD Canada, the Prince Edward Island Association of Chiefs of Police and the RCMP.
"If you take someone's vehicle from them and they don't have access to a vehicle, it makes it impossible for them to drive while impaired," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie of the RCMP.
"These impoundment rules apply to any vehicle that the impaired driver is driving, whether it belongs to a relative, a friend, even a rental car, these vehicles will be impounded and stored and towed at the impaired driver's expense."
Baillie pointed to several recent cases where RCMP have taken away vehicles from impaired drivers with previous suspensions.
The new rules also increase the minimum mandatory ignition interlock term for those convicted of a second impaired driving offence to three years and five years based on blood alcohol levels.
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