Under the Traffic Safety Amendment Act drivers with a blood alcohol content of .04 or higher who have children in their vehicle will face longer roadside licence suspensions and vehicle seizures. The legislation was introduced earlier this week.
A seven-day driving suspension will be handed out if a person has a BAC of 0.4 or higher, refuses to undergo a field sobriety test or fails a field sobriety test while having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle. The current penalty is a three day suspension. Licence suspensions for a second offence increase to 30 days from 21, while a third offence triggers a 120 day suspension, up from the current 90.
First-time offenders will have their vehicles seized for seven days, which is up from three. For a second offence, the seizure is for 30 days, it was previously seven and for the third offense there is a days seizure, it was previously 14.
“Impaired driving is always a terrible choice, but willfully putting children at risk deserves additional penalties. This legislation is another tool in our government’s fight against Saskatchewan’s impaired driving problem,” says the Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance Joe Hargrave.
MADD Chapter Services Manager for Saskatchewan Michelle Okere says the organization is supportive of the law.
“One of the things that we preach is make the choice not to get in the vehicle with an impaired driver, that’s something we talk about often times when we’re doing our school assembly programs but also in education awareness pieces. Certainly when we’re looking at younger youth with parents or guardians and things like that it tends to be an issue where choice isn’t even a question.”
She adds, “as an organization we want to stop impaired driving entirely regardless of who’s in the vehicle. We’re supportive of strengthening laws around child endangerment, because it does take the choice out of the matter for those children but certainly it comes down to stopping all impaired driving not just with children in the vehicle.”
Okere says MADD Canada will continue to work on the teaching aspects.
“While legislation is important as is enforcement, we’re also working hard to educate the public and do awareness campaigns. We’re working hard in schools to deliver the school assembly programs, talking to youth about the dangers of impaired driving both under the influence of alcohol as well as drugs.”
Other changes in the Traffic Safety Amendment Act include the extension of the look-back period for impaired driving penalties to 10 years from five, which allows SGI to administer harsher penalties for repeat offenders.
As well law enforcement will be allowed to issue an indefinite administrative suspension, which will make the roadside consequences for those charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code the same as those charged with exceeding .08 BAC and refusing to comply with a demand, such as drawing blood, a breath sample, a Standard Field Sobriety Test or evaluation by a Drug Recognition Evaluator.