With legalization of cannabis imminent in Canada, impaired driving is on a lot of people’s minds. While legalization might not bring about an epidemic of stoned driving, there’s a good possibility that police will be arresting more impaired drivers once legalization day rolls around. And Alberta impaired driving laws are being prepped for the change with newer, generally stricter rules against impaired driving. They take effect Monday 9 April.
All criminally impaired drivers will have their licence suspended for 90 days. Previously such drivers faced an indefinite suspension. Generally the suspension would apply until the criminal case was resolved. The problem is that courts can get backed up, which means that offenders could go many months without the ability to drive.
Ignition Interlock Program
After the suspension is over, impaired drivers must install an ignition interlock for one year or else have their licence suspended for that year. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Blood-Drug Concentration Limits
The standard for alcohol intoxication for Alberta remains .08 BAC (blood alcohol concentration). Cannabis is a much trickier substance to quantify as far as intoxication goes. The rules do not yet specify the details of legal impairment via cannabis, which the federal government is still thrashing out. File that under “TBD.”
Impaired GDL Drivers Still Lose
Any Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program drivers who test positive for any alcohol or cannabis face an immediate 30-day suspension, a seven-day vehicle seizure, and a longer GDL period. If they have enough of the substances in their blood to register for criminal action, they face the same penalties as other drivers.
The Good and the Bad
It makes sense for Alberta impaired driving laws to be toughened up now, and these rules are a good start. The one exception is the option to “wait out” the ignition interlock program. Statistics show that licence suspensions are very often violated, and those who tend to drive drunk will often do so without a licence. For that reason, the ignition interlock provision should be mandatory for all.
Like other provinces, Alberta will be feeling its way for a while, as the country figures out how to keep road fatalities down once cannabis is legalized. The province deserves praise for taking the initiative and strengthening its rules against impaired driving.