With the legalization of cannabis only three months away, Alberta is preparing by putting new impaired driving laws into effect.
Beginning April 9, drivers will be subject to the new laws under the Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Impaired driving includes those with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or over, drivers impaired by drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, and drivers who fail or refuse to comply with a demand for a breath or blood sample, according to a press release from the Government of Alberta.
Minister of Transportation Brian Mason says impaired driving is unacceptable and the loss accompanying impaired driving is entirely preventable.
“As the country prepares for legalization of cannabis, we’ve strengthened our provincial impaired driving sanctions to make our roads safer and continue to deter impaired driving —whatever the source of impairment may be,” Mason said.
Alberta police say they are committed to making the province’s roads and highways safe.
Supt. Gary Graham, officer in charge of Alberta Integrated Traffic Services, says Alberta RCMP will also continue with its commitment in raising awareness of impaired driving.
“We will continue to take impaired drivers, whether by drugs or alcohol, off Alberta roadways and anticipate these laws will help more people think twice about getting behind the wheel if they are under the influence,” said Supt. Graham.
On April 9, the following new impaired driving laws will come into effect in Alberta:
• All criminally impaired drivers will receive a 90-day licence suspension followed by mandatory participation in a one-year ignition interlock program. Should the driver choose not to participate in ignition interlock, the licence suspension will remain in place during this one-year term.
• These are provincial sanctions. Drivers will continue to be subject to criminal charges and all the associated penalties imposed by the courts, in addition to the provincial consequences.
• There will be zero tolerance for Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program drivers for cannabis and illegal drugs in the bloodstream, in addition to alcohol. GDL drivers found with any amount of alcohol, cannabis, illegal drugs or their combination will find the driver subject to a 30-day licence suspension, seven-day vehicle seizure and a lengthened term in the GDL program. (GDL drivers who meet the requirements for criminal-level impaired driving will be subject to the sanctions and penalties mentioned above.)
• Updates have been made to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board’s procedures, streamlining their processes. For example, there will be limits on the number of reconsiderations the board is required to hear in the absence of new evidence.
The legislation institutes a fixed-term suspension of 90 days as a direct way of addressing the legalization of marijuana.
The licence suspension can be triggered if the investigating officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is criminally impaired by alcohol or drugs. This cane be done through testing by an approved screening device and the Standardized Field Sobriety Test.
In a nine year period from 2008 to 2015, 1001 people died as a result of alcohol or drug-impaired driving. More than 15,000 people were injured from impaired driving during the same time.