In the battle against drunk driving in Canada, all news is not bad news. Alberta has made great strides in reducing the number of alcohol-related road deaths and injuries.
Deaths are down 40%, and injuries about 20%. At the launch of the 14th Red Ribbon campaign in Calgary, MADD Calgary President Terry Hughes noted that the organization was heartened by the report.
The reason for the improved numbers is a new set of impaired driving laws, passed in 2013. What the law did was:
- Increased penalties for drivers who test over .08 BAC: immediate suspension, vehicle seizure for 3-7 days, and mandatory ignition interlocks
- Increasing penalties for drivers who test between .05. and .08 BAC: automatic 3-day suspension, 3-day vehicle seizure, and escalating penalties for repeat offenses
There is nothing new about these sanctions; they have been shown to work in many countries. Almost all of Europe mandates .05 as the legal BAC limit for drunken driving. In fact, a spokesman for MADD Canada noted that Europe’s high rates of compliance were what Alberta is shooting for.
What these numbers show is that laws work. When proper sanctions are applied and enforced, people get the message, and road deaths decrease. When more citizens are willing to call 911 and report drunk drivers, more impaired drivers are taken off the road.
Accounts of a province’s success in reducing carnage on the roads usually end by saying that there is still more to do, and there is: drunk driving is one hundred percent preventable. There is no excuse for getting behind the wheel when one is not able to control it.
We look forward to more good news from Alberta. And for that happy day when the number of deaths recorded is a big, fat zero.