Back in 2011 when the provincial government brought in new BC impaired driving laws, people expressed serious doubt as to whether or not they were even necessary, whether they’d work, and whether a first offender deserved harsh penalties like immediate roadside suspensions (IRP). Like them or hate them, BC’s impaired driving laws have done what they set out to do; stop drunk drivers, and now the province is experiencing the lowest impaired driving rates they’ve seen in ten years.
Statistics Canada showed a 24.7% decline in drunk driving from 2004 to 2014. The latest number of drunk driving offenses has dropped to 274.1 per 100,000 people, and that’s enough of a drop to be considered a steep decline. But those numbers didn’t get progressively lower each year. 2011 was a record breaking year for drunk drivers in BC, with 415.35 offenses per 100,000 people.
If there was a turning point for BC, it happened in 2011. That sky-high rate of drunk drivers began to drop after the IRP came into effect. The 90-day driver’s license suspension and the 30-day vehicle impoundment probably stopped a few people from getting behind the wheel drunk too.
It’s great that the impaired driving rate is declining, but it’s not all good news for BC. The province still has a higher rate of drunk driving than other provinces, and if you compare East Coast to West Coast, Ontario has the West beat with a drunk driving rate 2.4 times lower than BC.
Fortunately for drivers, the province is keeping an eye on BC impaired driving laws and changing things in order to crack down even more. They have just brought in new rules that require any driver receiving a 90-day impaired driving ban to install an ignition interlock and sign up for a responsible driver program. It won’t be cheap either: the cost of the responsible driver program is $905, so that’s a hit to any drunk driver’s wallet.
It’s taken awhile for BC drivers to get used to the new rules and regulations, and although there will be people who will still oppose them, the facts are that IRPs, ignition interlocks, and responsible driving programs are saving lives in the province. Let’s hope BC impaired driving rates continue to decline.