VICTORIA - B.C.'s tough administrative penalties for drinking and driving return to the roadside on June 15, backed by a more fair, rigorous roadside and appeal process that became law this spring.
The procedural changes preserve the life-saving, deterrent value of Canada's toughest provincial penalties for alcohol-impaired driving, which first came into effect in September 2010. The B.C. government's goal of reducing impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013 has already been surpassed. Our most-recent analysis shows that we have significantly exceeded the initial targets. Compared to the average over the previous five years, alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths have dropped by 44 per cent since the law came into force- with an estimated 71 lives saved.
The amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act respond to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that the original administrative review process did not provide a driver with the ability to meaningfully challenge the "fail" result of a roadside breath test.
The amendments also enhance the fairness of both roadside and appeal processes. The following conditions now apply, regardless of whether a driver provides either a "warn" or "fail" breath sample at the roadside:
- Police must advise drivers of their right to a second breath test on a second approved screening device (ASD). In the past, officers were not legally required to inform drivers of this right.
- Police must tell drivers that the lower of the two readings will prevail. Previously, the results of a second test prevailed, whether higher or lower.
- Grounds for administrative review now include the reliability of the ASD results, whether police advised the driver of his or her right to a second test, whether police conducted that second breath test on a second ASD, and whether the IRP was issued on the basis of the lowest reading. These grounds reflect the expanded requirements of police officers at the roadside.
- Police officers must provide sworn reports to the superintendent of motor vehicles for every immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) they issue - increasing the evidentiary standard of the officers' submissions.
- Police officers must also submit documentation attesting to the calibration accuracy of the ASD device or devices that were used.
These changes mean, effective June 15, IRPs resume as an alternative to the full Criminal Code process for drivers found in excess of the legal limit of .08 per cent blood-alcohol content at the roadside- the default approach for police since the court ruling last November.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond -
"This legislation has always been about public safety, and its life-saving value is clear."
"Today, I want to ensure all British Columbians - especially those who've lost a loved one to impaired driving - that our tough stance on impaired driving has not changed. We have not undermined the deterrent value of our law, which is so critical to the life-saving gains we've seen.
"We've made changes to satisfy the court ruling. In fact, we've gone even further than the court directed because we want the public to believe in both the fairness and effectiveness of our approach."
Chief Const. Peter Lepine, president, B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police -
"Drinking drivers who don't consider the dangers they present to other road-users should be asking themselves whether they really think it's worth hundreds or thousands of dollars in penalties to continue their dangerous behaviour. Officers across B.C. welcome the resumption of IRPs, and enforcement activities mean it's a matter of when - not if - you will face extremely serious consequences if you choose to drink and drive."
Andrew Murie, CEO, MADD Canada -
"We're very glad to see the return of these tough but fair penalties. They've been proven to be incredibly effective at deterring people from getting behind the wheel after drinking, and having them back in effect will save even more lives."
Dr. Roy Purssell, chair, Emergency Medical Services Committee, BC Medical Association -
"As an emergency room physician, I take care of the victims of impaired drivers. Lives are ruined because of something that is completely preventable. Introduction of the immediate roadside suspension program caused an immediate, dramatic and sustained reduction in the number of impaired driving fatalities. Dozens of lives have been saved since the program was introduced."
"I am pleased these amendments have been made and that with the continuation of the full immediate roadside suspension program many more lives will be saved."
Laurel Middelaer, mother of four-year old impaired driving victim Alexa Middelaer -
"For sustainable change, feedback is essential. We have seen progress in this province; lives have been saved in an unprecedented manner. Yet, reflection was necessary and prudent. For B.C. to continue as a leader in road safety, we need to work together making bold, aggressive steps for the benefit of all of us. Sustained change and improved public safety is the goal for all British Columbians."
- Between September 2010 and November 2011, police in B.C. issued 27,802 immediate roadside prohibitions to impaired drivers.
- When the government of B.C. first introduced its IRP law in September 2010, the goal was to reduce impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013.
- This target has already been exceeded. Alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths dropped by 44 percent in the first 17 months since the law came into force. This represents 71 lives saved.
- Drivers impaired by alcohol face immediate penalties including administrative sanctions and remedial program costs ranging from $600 to more than $4,000. Impaired drivers also risk losing their vehicle and their licence.
More on the amendments to the legislation passed this spring is at: www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2012JAG0066-000594.htm
The first-year effectiveness of IRPs is detailed further:
A backgrounder follows.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
New Immediate Roadside Prohibition Process
The B.C. government amended the Motor Vehicle Act to address concerns that immediate roadside prohibitions issued to drivers who failed a roadside breath test infringed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the administrative review process did not provide the driver with the ability to meaningfully challenge the result of the roadside breath test.
Amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act enhance roadside assessment procedures, police documentation requirements, and grounds for appeal.
At the roadside:
- It is now mandatory for police to advise drivers that they have the right to receive a second breath test on a different approved screening device (ASD).
- The lower result of the two tests prevails. Previously, the results of the second test prevailed, regardless of whether it was higher or lower than the first test.
- Whenever possible, with consideration to officer safety, police will show the ASD result to the driver at the roadside.
- Police will have access to uniform language to inform the driver of their rights and obligations including: the right to a second ASD test, that the lowest result prevails, that there's a limited window of time to request and undergo a second ASD test, that their prohibition will begin immediately, and that they must surrender their driver's licence.
- Police must now submit sworn reports to the superintendent of motor vehicles that include ASD calibration information.
- A narrative report that includes additional details about an incident is also required as part of the sworn report.
Grounds for an administrative review by the superintendent have been expanded to include:
- The validity of approved screening device results.
- The reliability of the ASD.
- Whether police advised the driver of his or her right to a second test.
- Whether police conducted that test on a second ASD.
- Whether the IRP was issued on the basis of the lowest reading.
In the event that a driver believes that an administrative review process was applied unfairly, he or she may pursue a judicial review.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice