'Complacent' Sask. needs stricter impaired driving penalties
Enact tougher laws before marijuana is legalized next year, advocates say
Thirty years ago, alcohol led to the deaths of 123 people on Saskatchewan roads.
Airbags, increased seat belt use, and stricter drunk driving laws cut that number to 57 last year.
But members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said Saskatchewan has not adopted effective enough measures to curtail impaired driving.
"We do have some mixed messages in this province," said Wendell Waldron, a community leader in Regina with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Waldron said Don McMorris' arrest and initial resignation from cabinet and subsequent reinstatement into the Saskatchewan Party caucus have set the wrong example.
- Sask. deputy premier Don McMorris resigns from cabinet after impaired-driving charge
- McMorris back in Sask. Party caucus — and back on the road — after impaired driving charge
He said for years, Saskatchewan "lagged behind" other jurisdictions in curtailing impaired driving.
Zero tolerance 'too difficult': minister
On Monday, Saskatchewan's minister responsible for SGI called impaired driving "a generational thing."
"It takes a generation to change it," said Joe Hargrave, defending SGI's work educating the public about the dangers of impaired driving.
Hargrave said it would be "too difficult" to adopt zero tolerance laws for motorists who have consumed alcohol, and said cutting fatality rates will take time.
"At the end of the day SGI is not going to fix this problem, the government is not going to fix this problem," Hargrave said.
Hargrave said tougher drunk driving laws which took effect in January have shown "preliminary" success in lowering alcohol-related fatality rates.
Hargrave and MADD both cited Uber and ride-sharing services as another "tool" municipalities use to cut drunk driving rates.
Still, only seven of last year's alcohol-related traffic deaths occured on urban roads. The rest took place on rural roads, reserves, or provincial highways.
The minister said the province will not rule out stiffer penalties for impaired driving, but believed seizing vehicles from drivers with a blood alcohol content of .04 is already "enough to jolt people into making that right decision."
Adopt B.C. model, advocates say
Waldron said this is the time for Saskatchewan lawmakers to pass "criminal level immediate roadside prohibitions."
Officials in British Columbia can seize a motorist's vehicle for 30 days if that driver's blood alcohol content exceeds 0.08.
"That is the single biggest reason why British Columbia has reduced the fatalities on their roads by 54 per cent," Waldron said. "We've got to be careful because we're about to move into the whole marijuana legalization issue next year."
"If we don't move as quickly as we should with respect to these impaired driving issues we're going start to replicate the same mistakes that we've made with alcohol with marijuana," said Waldron.
"That becomes a very dangerous situation here in this province."