It’s not very often a province says it is going to crack down on drunk drivers and actually follows through on that promise in a hurry, but that’s exactly what Saskatchewan has done. After a year of tragic drunk driving crashes and escalating impaired driving offenses, lawmakers decided to toughen up impaired driving laws effective immediately.
They quickly implemented a few key changes to the laws including longer ignition interlock programs for all offenders and penalties if you’re stopped with as low as a .04 blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Now that it’s been a few months since all of these changes have taken effect, has impaired driving rates dropped in the province?
Unfortunately, the answer to that is no. According to Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) police reported 324 impaired driving offenses in the month of May. Those offenses include 280 Criminal Code charges for arrests where someone was over .08 or if they refused the breathalyzer when stopped.
These charges also came despite the recent and highly publicized SGI campaign that was released in April, and it was a hard-hitting campaign because it featured real victims of drunk driving in Saskatchewan. It doesn’t seem to have had an effect on drunk drivers though, because SGI says that May was actually the highest month for drunk driving in the entire year.
It has to be discouraging when you try again and again to get through to Saskatchewan drivers and they continue to get behind the wheel after drinking, but it’s possible the province is experiencing growing pains as the new laws settle in.
People may only be starting to realize that it’s true: you can be penalized or arrested for drunk driving when all you’ve had are one or two drinks, and because the laws have changed, police are netting more impaired driving arrests than before.
If that’s not the case and people are just ignoring the new laws and continuing to drink and drive anyway, Saskatchewan is going to a lot of help to begin the changing the minds of residents.