Not everyone in British Columbia welcomed new laws imposing harsher penalties for drunk drivers when they took effect four years ago. But it turns out that B.C. roads are apparently safer because of them.
Back in 2010 an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act lowered the permissible blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers from .08 to to .05 per cent. There were also tougher penalties, including fines, automatic 3-day suspensions, vehicle impounds, and criminal charges for DUI arrests.
A legal battle ensued, with civil libertarians claiming that the laws infringed on personal rights, but the laws eventually took effect, and fatalities dropped 50% within two years.
Was it the threat of stronger punishment that caused the change? A UBC study of the British Columbia law’s effects credits the law, enforcement of the law, and media coverage as reasons for the decline in fatal crashes. So the answer appears to be yes – British Columbians are drinking less before driving, as a direct result of the stronger law.
The balance between civil liberties and public safety will continue to be an issue in B.C. as elsewhere in Canada, but there is no denying the evidence now: among the solutions to alcohol-related road deaths are stiffer punishments and good enforcement.