B.C.'s first year with Canada's toughest roadside penalties for impaired driving saw alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths reduced by 40 per cent, Premier Christy Clark announced, the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims in Canada.
In addition, the Province will contribute $40,000 this year toward establishing Alexa's Bus, a mobile road safety bus that will focus on impaired driving education and enforcement.
"In honour of Alexa Middelaer, a four-year-old girl whose life was cut short by impaired driving, we set a goal to reduce impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013," said Premier Clark. "Just one year later, preliminary data shows we are already exceeding that with a 40 per cent reduction. That's 45 more families in B.C. who have been able to keep a loved one safe from impaired drivers."
From Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011, the total number of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths across B.C. was 68. This represents a decrease of 40 per cent from the 113 such deaths on average in each of the previous five years.
"For the first time in a decade, we've seen a real drop in the deaths associated with impaired driving, and 45 more people made it home safe in the past year as a result," said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Shirley Bond. "Together with public education, prevention programs and criminal sanctions, the roadside penalties will continue to play a role in helping to ensure the success seen over the past year becomes a life-saving trend over the longer term."
B.C. police agencies have backed up the deterrent and life-saving value of the new penalties with strong enforcement. Between Sept. 20, 2010, when the new sanctions came into effect, and Sept. 30, 2011:
Police across B.C. report having served 23,366 immediate roadside prohibitions to drinking drivers.
- Of these, 15,401 were to drivers who blew in the "fail" range (i.e., with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 per cent or over) or refused to provide a breath sample
- 7,965 were to drivers who blew in the "warn" range (i.e., provided a breath sample between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent).
Police impounded 20,020 drinking-drivers' vehicles at the roadside.
- In 14,951 cases, drivers received a 30-day impound for a "fail".
- Of the other 5,069 impounds for a "warn", 98 per cent were three-day impounds for drivers caught a first time under the new rules. (Vehicle impoundment is at the discretion of police on the first or second occasion that a driver blows in the "warn" range.)
"The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police strongly supported the new law, and recognized that enforcement would be critical to help build awareness, change drinking and driving habits, reduce injuries and collisions, and ultimately, save lives," said Chief Supt. Bill Dingwall, president of the association. "The first-year success is a reflection of a significant change in public attitude towards drinking and driving, with enforcement and immediate sanctions reinforcing this remarkable change."
Alexa's Bus, a vision of her parents Laurel and Michael, has quickly drawn contributions from an array of governments, organizations and private donors - including $50,000 from BCAA, $15,000 from MADD Canada, $40,000 from ICBC and $10,000 from the City of Surrey. Similar buses already exist in Alberta, Ontario and Washington State.
The Motor Vehicle Act changes that came into force Sept. 20, 2010, mean drivers impaired by alcohol face immediate penalties that may take away their vehicle, their licence, and cost them anywhere from $600 to about $4,060 in administrative penalties and remedial program costs.
Office of the Premier
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General