Drug-impaired driving bill introduced
Thursday, Nov 23, 2017 06:00 am
The Province of Alberta introduced a new bill to deal with impaired driving, including drug-impaired driving, Nov. 14. Bill 29, An Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol-Impaired Driving, is intended to tighten the penalties for anyone caught driving under the influence of cannabis, alcohol or other drugs, according to Minister of Transportation Brian Mason.
“Impaired driving due to alcohol, cannabis or any other impairing drug or combination of drugs, is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. These tragedies are entirely avoidable,” Mason said during a press conference Nov. 14. “Alberta’s impaired driving laws aim to reduce the number of impaired drivers on our roads, encourage safe driving behaviour and strongly discourage impaired driving.”
The new bill comes at a time when the provincial government is grappling with how to deal with the proposed legalization of cannabis by the federal government in July 2018. The province released its draft cannabis framework Oct. 4. Albertans had until Oct. 27 to provide feedback on the proposed framework.
If passed, under Bill 29 there will be new penalties for cannabis-impaired and cannabis/alcohol-impaired driving offences in Alberta. In addition, the federal government has proposed changes to impaired driving laws specific to cannabis-impaired, cannabis/alcohol-impaired and other drug-impaired driving.
Mason said Bill 29 would require updates to the Alberta Traffic Safety Act to reflect the federal changes and to ensure that penalties for drug-impaired driving would align with those for alcohol-impaired drivers.
The changes include expanded zero tolerance for drivers with a graduated drivers licence (GDL). Currently, GDL drivers are not allowed to have any degree of alcohol in their blood and the bill would expand that to include cannabis, a combination of cannabis and alcohol and other illegal drugs.
If passed, proposed federal legislation would create new drug-impaired driving offences with specified blood-drug concentration (BDC) limits for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main ingredient found in cannabis that can affect concentration and alter brain function. If passed, Bill 29 would see Alberta following suit and adopting these limits for its legislation. Other penalties could include vehicle seizure and a requirement to undergo an impaired driving education program.
Anyone found driving over these limits would be subject to a 90-day licence suspension. Following the 90 days, these drivers could choose to either participate in a one-year ignition lock program, which would require them to blow into a breathalyzer installed in their vehicle before the ignition could be unlocked, or serve a full one-year licence suspension. If passed, this amendment would come into effect Feb. 1, 2018 with the other amendments to Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act coming into effect when cannabis legalization is finalized.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada has been a vocal advocate for strengthened penalties for those caught driving under the influence of any drug or alcohol.
“MADD Canada welcomes the legislation announced by the Province of Alberta to address impaired driving. The provision to prevent drugged driving among new and young drivers is especially important, and we thank the province for its leadership on this issue,” Brenda Johnson, chair, MADD Canada National Board of Directors, said during the press conference.