Could escaping an impaired driving conviction in Ontario be as easy as checking yourself into the hospital? A recent Op-Ed in the Huffington Post says yes, and this isn’t the first time the emergency room doctor who wrote it has spoken out against this loop hole in Ontario impaired driving laws.
When one driver came into the hospital after a motor vehicle crash, the doctor suspected the person of being impaired. After the crash she was taken from the scene straight to the hospital by ambulance because she stated she was injured. He examined her and found she smelt of alcohol, had slurred speech, and was unsteady when she tried to walk, but had no other significant injuries.
After assessment, she signed herself out of the hospital before police could arrive, and because she refused all lab tests that would have documented her urine or blood alcohol concentration (BAC), there was no official record of whether she was intoxicated. Due to patient confidentiality, the doctor couldn’t report his suspicions to the authorities, and she was never charged for the crash that injured two other people.
The doctor who wrote the Op-Ed was frustrated because he feels Ontario legislation gives drunk drivers a potential escape hatch after causing a crash, and it’s happening frequently in ERs across the province. Drunk drivers are stating they are injured and heading to the ER after a crash, then refusing treatment or a police visit while they wait out the time period when a breathalyzer would pick up an accurate BAC.
Unfortunately the Highway Traffic Act also seems to support the loophole. It states that physicians can report any individual over the age of 16 who may be suffering from a condition that makes it dangerous to operate a motor vehicle, but the term ‘condition’ is open for debate. In this case, the doctor felt that reporting her could open the door to personal litigation because any condition involving alcohol requires repeat abuses, not a single instance.
In partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the doctor who wrote the Op-Ed would like to close this loophole in Ontario’s impaired driving laws and enact change. He wrote a letter to the Prime Minister addressing how drunk drivers are using the law to avoid responsibility for crashes, and he’d like to see a change to impaired driving laws to allow the hospital to become an extension of an impaired driving crash scene. That way any driver leaving the hospital without a police interview would be found to be legally responsible for leaving the scene of crash.
Ontario has worked hard to keep their roads safe from drunk drivers. Closing this loophole and showing drunk drivers there is no way out after a crash is one more step to eliminating impaired driving in the province.