Ontario seeks to curb impaired driving

May 16, 2024 | News, Provincial News

The Ontario government said it is hopeful the tough legislation introduced on Wednesday will work to diminish impaired driving and keep citizens safe.

The province intends to crack down on punishment for impaired driving by increasing the roadside license suspension time, including a lifetime license suspension for those who are convicted of impaired driving causing death, and installing an ignition interlock device for any driver convicted of impaired driving.

Steve Sullivan, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada), said there’s more that can be done, but these are important steps in the battle against impaired driving.

“I think there’s no one simple solution to impaired driving. If there was, we would have had it by now. So I think all these different measures play a role,” Sullivan said.

Statistics Canada reported although there has been a general decrease in impaired driving since 2011, it remains a leading criminal cause of death.

“According to police-reported data, impaired driving killed as many as 155 people in Canada in 2019 (88 impaired drivers and 67 other road users) and injured 540,” the report said.

The Canadian government reported 411 deaths on the roads in 2023. Ontario said one in three roadway fatalities involves impaired driving.

“Those numbers are still staggering to me. I work with and meet families every day who’ve lost a child or a spouse or a sibling. I meet people who’ve suffered life-altering injuries and all because someone made a selfish decision to drive impaired,” Sullivan said.

Ontario reported a 2022 roadside survey found that one in five drivers tested positive for drugs, alcohol, or both.

Ontario also reported the percentage of drivers killed while under the influence of cannabis more than doubled between 2012 and 2020.

Sullivan said although most young people know the risks of alcohol-impaired driving, there is still a lot of misinformation about doing drugs and driving.

“There’s a perception out there that people think, yeah, they can catch me for alcohol, but they’re not going to get me if I am on or if I have cannabis, that’s not true,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he was pleased and surprised to hear Ontario will include educational aspects of drug-impaired driving in the new legislation.

“I wasn’t aware it was part of it, not legislatively, but they’re going to do a public awareness campaign in terms of drug-impaired driving, and that’s really important because we know, you know, we do a lot of work with schools,” he said.

Sullivan said he was excited that the OPP said they were going to be making more use of breathalyzers moving forward and acting on an amended 2018 legislation, Canada’s Mandatory Alcohol Screening (MAS), which allows police to ask for a breath test of any driver.

The OPP said they will also be requiring all drivers pulled over in the GTA to provide a breath sample for testing.

“That’s really important too because one of the things we know that actually impacts people’s decision-making is their perception of getting caught. So if they think that there’s more likelihood that they’re gonna have to take a breathalyzer [test], that will change people’s behaviour,” Sullivan said.

The legislation has not been finalized, and Sullivan said he and his team at MAAD are ready to discuss it with Ontario.

“There may be suggestions that we want to make to the government,” he said.