The choice to drink and drive is made by the individual getting behind the wheel. Only they are in control of the vehicle, and only they make decisions when driving that will ultimately affect anyone who is in the vehicle with them.
If an adult passenger is along for the ride, they can choose to not get in the vehicle with the person driving, but what about children? A child won’t understand that the parent is too drunk to drive, and you can read stories on the news everyday of kids innocently going along for a ride ending in tragedy or being asked by the parent to blow into their ignition interlock device so they can start the vehicle after they’ve been drinking.
Police stopped a man in southeastern Alberta recently who was speeding down the Trans-Canada Highway with 6 children between the ages of 8 months to 9 years old in his mini-van. He has been charged with impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08, and criminal negligence. According to Alberta driving under the influence (DUI) laws, if this is the offender’s first offense, he will receive fines and a 1-year license suspension. The license suspension may be reduced to 3 months should the offender install an ignition interlock in his vehicle.
In Ontario, a woman’s 3 children are in the custody of the Children’s Aid Society after she decided to drive drunk and was called in to the police by concerned citizens. Upon arrest, her BAC was more than double the legal limit of .08, and she now faces two impaired driving charges, has had her license suspended for 90 days, and her vehicle impounded. Ontario DUI laws also state the offender may be required to install an ignition interlock in her vehicle upon license reinstatement.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) believes that drinking and driving with a child in the vehicle is child abuse, and there are 46 states in the USA that have extra penalties for those who choose to drink and drive with children under the age of 15 in the vehicle.
It might be time for Canada to take a cue from the USA. Maybe if provinces implement drinking and driving related child endangerment laws and add a special provision extending their ignition interlock program to ensure they drive sober, children won’t be forced to be a passenger to drinking drivers.